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 – rfpa.org, 2010), pp.251-52.

Ordinary Is Not Mediocre – M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014I have started to read through Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014) and am finding it intellectually and spiritually challenging. It is filled with good thoughts and applications.

In Chapter 2  (“Ordinary isn’t mediocre”) Horton answers the objection that living an “ordinary” life means being mediocre in life and lowering our expectations of what a Christian ought to be and become. To the contrary, he shows us that we are called as believers to pursue excellence.

Here are a couple of paragraphs where he addresses this:

Excellence is going over and beyond the call of duty. But to what end? More than anything else, excellence demands a worthy object and a worthy goal. We have this worthy object: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,’ begins the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The call to excellence is useless by itself. We can no more stir up a passion for excellence than we can will a passion for love. It is only by discovering a worthy object of desire that we find ourselves interested in pursuing it.

Excellence requires caring about someone or something enough to invest time, effort, and skill into it, with God’s glory and our neighbor’s good as the goal. Biblically defined, true excellence has others in mind – first God, and then our neighbor. ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31). Eating and drinking are fairly common aspects of daily life, and yet even ordinary meals become significant when they draw our attention once again to glorifying and enjoying the God who provides them [p.29].

Published in: on September 26, 2017 at 10:37 PM  Leave a Comment  

Book Alert: “Handle with Care!” – Dr. J. Kennedy

Handle-with-care-kennedyA few months ago I was made aware of a new book produced by Dr. Julian Kennedy and today I want to notify you of it while reserving fuller review for later (cf. note below).

The book is Handle with Care! A Biblical and Reformed Guide to Sexuality for Young People (Wipf & Stock, 2017; paper & epub, 114 pp.).

You will find this summary of the book at the publisher’s site:

God’s good gift of sexuality has been corrupted since the fall of man into sin so that man in his depravity is not able to use it for God’s glory and for his own good. Sex between unmarried (fornication), adultery, including divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality are accepted as normal in modern society and young people, even Christian young people, are being influenced by this Satanic lie that “if it feels good–do it!” This booklet is sent out with the prayer that it will save many young people from heartache and the curse that these serious sexual sins will bring on them. There is the good way, the biblical or reformed way for living chastely as a single person, finding and courting a mate, and marrying and staying faithful to that mate. This booklet has been a long time since inception to publication! First conceived thirty years ago, very few copies of an older version were produced by Covenant Keepers for young people in Singapore in 2011. The original has been substantially expanded by quotations from Protestant Reformed Church ministers.

In his “Introduction” the author offers us these important thoughts on this timely topic:

This booklet aims to explain the truth about sex, love and marriage from the view of the Reformed* Faith of Scripture. God alone, who instituted the first marriage, can tell us what love really is and how sex in marriage can be used for the greatest benefit. Much will be said in this booklet that contradicts the popular notions
about sex that are portrayed in the glossy popular magazines, newspapers and on TV soaps, in films, or in novels of today, where people hop in and out of bed and of marriages, with sad and destructive consequences to themselves and any children involved. God knows that building a lasting relationship on the rock of scriptural truth will mean it will stand in the storms of life. Prevention is better than cure, so practice godly courtship and marriage and save yourself from much heartache and many problems. The statistics on cohabitation, fornication, divorce, adultery, teenage pregnancy and homosexuality even among professing believers show how God’s instructions are being ignored and it is my prayer that this booklet will help many to find God’s best in love, marriage and sex.

We thank Dr. Kennedy for his contribution to the literature available on sexuality – rare because it is Reformed. Reformed because it is rooted in God’s Word (biblical!) and the Reformed confessions of the historic church.

Knowing a book’s contents help reveal its value. I trust as you review this content of Handle with Care! that you will see its value:

Part One: What God Says
Chapter 1
Dynamite!—Handle With Care | 3
Chapter 2
Battle for the Mind—Impure Thoughts | 5
Chapter 3
Why Wait? | 14
Chapter 4
Homosexuality | 18
Chapter 5
Two Become One | 22
Chapter 6
The Proper Basis and Purpose of Marriage | 25
Chapter 7
Singleness | 29

Part Two: The Facts of Life
Chapter 8
How Does Sex Start? | 39
Chapter 9
Men versus Women—What’s the Difference? | 41
Chapter 10
Boy Meets Girl | 44
Chapter 11
Friendships | 46

Part Three: Finding the Right Mate
Chapter 12
The Meaning of Love | 51
Chapter 13
Finding Your Help Meet | 55
Chapter 14
For Girls Only | 57
Chapter 15
Courtship, Dating and Right Relationships | 59
Chapter 16
The Wedding is Soon | 79
Chapter 17
Family Planning | 81

Appendix—The Reformed Faith: The Five Solas | 89

I have requested a review copy of this new title. When I have that in hand, I will be better able to make a more full evaluation of this book.

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“Or-di-nar-y”: Lonely But Precious Word – M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014A book I wanted to read when it first came out a few years ago is Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). Last week in a thrift store I found a clean used copy and this past week I started to read it.

Chapter 1 (“The New Radical”) is where I will start with you too, because that’s where Horton decries the trendiness of modern evangelicalism with its “Radical. Epic. Revolutionary.” (the opening words of chap.1) – that is, her excitement with all things new and “extra”-ordinary .

There are so many good points and lines in this opening chapter, but I give you these for now.

‘Ordinary’ has to be one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary today. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, ‘My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary?’ Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job? Our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, and make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured, and maintained. We have to live up to our Facebook profile. It’s one of the newer versions of salvation by works. [p.11]

A few pages later Horton expands on these thoughts:

American Christianity is a story of perpetual upheavals in churches and individual lives. Starting with the extraordinary conversion experience, our lives are motivated by a constant expectation for The Next Big Thing. We’re growing bored with the ordinary means of God’s grace, attending church week in and week out. Doctrines and disciplines that have shaped faithful Christian witness in the past are often marginalized or substituted with newer fashions or methods. The new and improved may dazzle us for the moment, but soon they have become ‘so last year.’ [p.16]

As we end another week, let’s be grateful for the ordinary Christian life God has given us. As we go through another ordinary Sunday, attending our ordinary churches, where we worship in very ordinary ways, hearing ordinary sermons on the ordinary Word of God, let us thank God for such common, regular events and experiences.

Because when you think of all this “ordinariness” in terms of God’s grace and mercy to us sinners, it’s all actually quite extraordinary.

Your Mind Matters (4): In Knowing God’s Will for You – J. Stott

How then are you to decide this major question? [Stott has used the example of whom to marry in connection with using your mind to know the will of God]. There is only one possible answer, namely, by using the mind and the common sense which God has given you. Certainly you will pray for God’s guidance. And if you are wise, you will ask the advice of your parents and of other mature people who know you well. But ultimately you must make up your mind, trusting that God will guide you through your own mental processes.

From which point Stott takes us to a specific Bible passage as proof:

There is good scriptural warrant for this use of the mind in Psalm 32:8-9. These two verses need to be read together and supply a fine example of the balance of the Bible. Verse 8 contains a pledge of divine guidance: ‘I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.’ It is, in fact, a threefold promise: ‘I will instruct you, I will teach you, I will guide you.’ But verse 9  immediately adds: ‘Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you.’

In other words, although God promises to guide us, we must not expect him to do so in the way in which we guide horses and mules. He will not use a bit and bridle with us. For we are not horses or mules; we are human beings. We have understanding, which horses and mules have not. It is, then, through the use of our own understanding, enlightened by Scripture and prayer and the counsel of friends, that God will lead us into a knowledge of his particular will for us.

mind-matters-stottTaken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott, pp.44-45.

The death of reading is threatening the soul

This well-written online article appeared at The Washington Post on July 21, 2017, and was penned by popular Christian author Philip Yancey. Following the recent lead of other avid readers and writers, Yancey too laments the loss of “deep reading” in his own life, the loss of which, he says, endangers the soul, especially for Christians.

Below are a few paragraphs from his thoughts on this important subject (find the full article at the link at the end). I reference this article along with others like it, not simply to mourn the loss of good reading habits among Christians, but to encourage us to think think seriously about this matter and then inspire us to change our habits so that we may read more and better.

May you too, as I have, profit from Yancey’s lament. Don’t be sad; rejoice at the opportunities before you and get reading!

My crisis consists in the fact that I am describing my past, not my present. I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (Okay, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.

The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at CNN.com reading Donald Trump’s latest tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.

So what can we do to overcome this? Here are some more thoughts, from a positive perspective:

…Charles Chu calculates that at an average reading speed of 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books—less than the 608 hours the average American spends on social media, or the 1,642 hours watching TV. “Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,” says Quartz: “It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.”

Willpower alone is not enough, he says. We need to construct what he calls “a fortress of habits.” I like that image. Recently I checked author Annie Dillard’s website, in which she states, “I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.” Now that’s a fortress.

I’ve concluded that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of Internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish. Christians especially need that sheltering space, for quiet meditation is one of the most important spiritual disciplines.

Source: The death of reading is threatening the soul

J. Calvin’s Ethic of the Christian Life: Not Our Own But the Lord’s

If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.

Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us – in every way in all our lives – run to Him as our only proper end.

How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own – who’s taken rule and domination away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017). This is taken fro mthe beginning of section two, where Calvin treats “Self-Denial in the Christian Life,” pp.22-23 (slightly edited).

Your Mind and the Quest for Holiness – J. Stott

mind-matters-stottThere is, however, a second kind of mental discipline to which we are summoned in the New Testament. We are to consider not only what we should be but what by God’s grace we already are. We are constantly to recall what God has done for us and say to ourselves: ‘God has united me with Christ in his death and resurrection, and thus obliterated my old life and given me an entirely new life in Christ. He has adopted me into his family and made me his child. He has put his Holy Spirit within me and so made my body his temple. He has also made me his heir and promised me an eternal destiny with him in heaven. This is what he has done for me and in me. This is what I am in Christ.’

Paul keeps urging us to call these things to mind. ‘I want you to know,’ he writes. ‘I don’t want you to be ignorant.’ And some ten times in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians he utters his incredulous question, ‘Don’t you know?’ Don’t you know that by being baptized into Christ you were baptized into his death? Don’t you know that you were the slaves of the one to whom you have yielded yourselves in obedience? Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The apostle’s intention in this battery of questions is not just to make us feel ashamed of our ignorance. It is rather to prevail upon us to recall these great truths about ourselves, which in fact we know very well, and to talk to ourselves about them until their truth grips our mind and molds our character. This is not the self-confidence of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale’s way is to get us to pretend we are other than we are. Paul’s way is to remind us what we truly are, because God has made us that way in Christ.

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott. Specifically, this is drawn from Chap.3, “The Mind in the Christian Life” and the section “The Quest for Holiness,” where Stott points us to the significant role of the Christian’s mind in his sanctification (pp.41-42).

The Place of Entertainment in Our Lives – M. Wittmer

TT-July-2017As already noted here this month, the July 2017 issue of Tabletalk takes for its theme “Entertainment.” The final featured article is by Dr. Michael Wittmer, who teaches systematic theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary here in town.

In “Glorifying God and Engaging Entertainment” Wittmer answers two questions relating to the Christian’s proper use of entertainment – when to engage it and how to engage it. When he answers that first question of “when,” he points out that we may enjoy entertainment regularly. But to that he also adds this adverb: selectively.

Under that second point he has some good thoughts that I share with you today.

Besides the amount of time spent on entertainment, we must also consider its location [place in our lives]. Solomon says there is ‘a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted,’ and so on (Eccl.3:1-8). There is a time to create and a time to consume what was created. Let’s not give our most creative moments to passively consuming entertainment. I am most productive in the mornings [I can relate to that!], and I guard that time from videos, websites, and even books that don’t require my best. I try to devote my peak periods to creating content – I’m writing this sentence in the morning – rather than consuming what someone else has produced.

When are you most fresh? Protect this time, and its regular structure will supply space for your creativity to flourish. Use this time to produce things and to serve people for the glory of God and the benefit of your neighbors. Create until you run out of steam, then refresh yourself with a song, story, or other creation that someone else has produced.

isn’t that a helpful point to guide us in when to use entertainment? I don’t think I ever looked at using leisure time that way before – using it to be creative and productive instead of just using someone else’s creativity and productions. I find that insightful and instructive.

Now, about the two appeals to “common” grace in this issue in defense of the Christian’s use of entertainment: I would also like to comment on that in the near future, because grace and entertainment certainly have an intersection; it’s just not “common.”

Resurrection: The Benefits of a Reset – D. Murray

Reset-DMurray-2017This past Sunday I spent part of the day reading the last chapter in David Murray’s practical and profitable new book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

You will recall that each chapter calls us (men in particular) to bring the “car” of our lives into various “repair bays” to have us recheck and reset the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives. The final chapter is headed by the words “Repair Bay 10,” but it is really a summary of all the benefits we receive when we reset our lives biblically. Which is why its main title is “Resurrection.”

There are so many good sections in this last chapter – just the headings give us men encouragement about the changes this reset can bring to our lives: new pace, new conscience, new honesty, new contentment, new selectivity, new energy, new joy, new theology, and so on. Let me quote from two of the sections that I find representative and encouraging.

The first is “new sensitivity,” where Murray writes in part:

Reset garage produces a much better and humbler understanding of our humanity. We now keep our eyes on the dashboard and know which warning lights to look out for and what they mean – warning signs that we previously would have ignored, minimized, or resented. We’re sensitive to physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational changes, and collaborate more knowledgeably with the biological rhythms of our bodies. We sense the monthly mix, the weekly beat of six days of work and one day of rest, the daily cadence of work and sleep, the regular tempo of hunger and thirst, and even the pulses of dynamic energy that peak a few times a day, enabling us to find our flow state and do our best work. Going forward, we are much more attuned to this God-given rhythm, and, instead of fighting it, we have gotten with the groove and beat of God’s order in our lives [pp.180-81].

The second is the last section, “new horizon,” where the author points us to our great hope:

Prior to Reset garage, many of us hardly ever looked up. We just saw the next to-do item, put our heads down, and plowed through it. We saw the next meeting, the next report, the next business trip, the next sermon, the next book, the next counseling session, and so on. But we never saw the next life.

Reset garage has resurrected resurrection hope. The mini-resurrection we’ve experienced has given us a taste of the ultimate resurrection ahead, when every ache and pain, every cry and depression, every loss and weakness will be no more. It has also slowed our pace enough to allow us the time and space to look ahead and enjoy that view, to anticipate that final destination, where we will experience that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed’ (Rom.8:18). A grace-paced life transports us into a grace-and glory-filled eternity [pp190-91].

And with that in view, Murray calls us with the inspired apostle to run our race, so that we may receive the prize of sovereign grace – eternal life with our heavenly Father in Christ.