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

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

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

“How did I get here?”

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Warfare: The Gospel of Peace Footwear

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaTonight we will gather again for fruitful fellowship and discussion with our Sunday night discussion group. We are continuing our study of spiritual warfare using the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura (RHB, 2014). This valuable book is basically an exposition of Ephesians 6:10-18, the classic NT passage on the Christian’s spiritual battles against his spiritual enemies.

We are currently treating the chapters that explain the armor of God as laid out in Eph.6:13-17:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Tonight we looked at the third part of the armor – ” [having] your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v.15). In the book this is explained in chapter 7 – “The Gospel of Peace Footwear.”

The authors take the position that this “preparation” is to be understood both offensively and defensively. That is, this preparation is first of all a “readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace” to sinners taken captive by Satan. This is, in part, how they explain this idea:

…God’s people today must… [go] forth into enemy quarters shod with the combat boots of the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord.Wherever we go and at every opportunity God grants, we must seek to assault Satan’s kingdom, telling men and women who are under his power (Eph.2:2) that spiritual freedom is found in Jesus [p.61].

I believe that is an important element of this weapon, one perhaps we do not emphasize sufficiently.

But secondly, according to the authors this preparation is also a defensive weapon in our spiritual battles. This is how they explain this aspect:

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10) and is relentless in his attacks on us. He lives to make our lives miserable. How do we stand against such a fearsome foe? The answer is the gospel of peace. Just as the gospel is a powerful means for advancing God’s truth and delivering many from Satan’s clutches, it is also a powerful means for stabilizing us as believers, helping us to stand against his attacks. The gospel of peace, like the shoes of the Roman soldier, gives us firm footing in life and the ability to stand in the spiritual war [pp.61-62].

And they add this paragraph to show how this is so from a practical point of view:

It works practically like this: When the devil seeks to plague our consciences with guilt after we have confessed sin, we remember what the gospel of peace tells us: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ ( 1 John 1:9). When the devil condemns us, we are to bring to mind and soak our hearts deep in the comprehensive truths of the gospel and remember that God has no dispute with us because of Christ (Rom.8:33). When the devil attacks our assurance, we must remember that we are in an unbreakable union with the living God through Jesus and that nothing will be able to ‘separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom.8:39). When the devil tempts us to sin, we must push back and resist his enticements, recalling our deliverance from such things and our newness in Jesus (2 Cor.5:17.) [p.62].

Which leads them to end with these thoughts about how important this gospel of peace is for us:

As Christians, we must live day-by-day in the gospel. That is, we must let its truths regularly pervade and control the citadel of our souls. God’s great grace and love for us in Jesus must be our firm foundation throughout our entire lives [p.62].

So then, how well are putting on and using this gospel of peace footwear? Today gives us another opportunity to receive that gospel of peace and be equipped for the battles. May God give us grace so to do.

Secularism Everywhere – March “Tabletalk”

TT-March-2017With over a week gone into this new month, it is time to reference the March issue of Tabletalk. The theme this month is another timely and significant one – “Secularism.”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces it with his article “The Religion of Secularism,” pointing out among other things that

Secularism is not only a problem out there in the culture, it is something we must fight in our hearts, our homes, and our churches. We are too easily tempted to forget God and to avoid conflict with the world. It sometimes seems easier to live as if God really isn’t there, to go about our days without reflecting on His authority and that we’re called to live all of life coram Deo, before His face. But if we forget Him, we’ll forget who we are. We are His people, and we are called to stand firm against the creeping darkness of secularism, declaring to our hearts, our homes, our churches, and our nation that the Lord God Almighty has authority over all and that, unwaveringly, in God we trust.

The first featured article is written by Thomas Brewer, managing editor of Tabletalk, and is titled “Secularism Everywhere.” For this Wednesday, we post a few paragraphs in which Brewer shows how secularism cam easily influence us as Christians. I think you will agree that these are areas we need to battle personally and daily.

Secularism, being a subtle atheism, recognizes the material world as the only world. There is no spiritual world or afterlife. In such a world, material pleasure is the highest good. Such a mindset lends itself to worshiping money as god, for what greater way of acquiring material pleasure is there than money? Such a materialist mindset is especially apparent on TV, on the radio, as we browse the web, and even as we drive down the highway. Commercials, TV shows, celebrity culture, and billboards incessantly demand that we buy some-thing—anything—to make us happy. Too often, Christians believe the message that material things will fill the void in our lives. That “thing” will make us happy. If our thoughts incessantly dwell on our money, what to buy, and when to buy it, we have likely adopted our culture’s way of thinking. If our joy is tied exclusively to our next purchase, we are not worshiping God. Rather, we have abandoned God and substituted a secular idol in His place.

Secularism has entered our thinking in other subtle ways. Given our materialist mindset, many of us ignore or forget the realities of the spiritual world. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that our struggle isn’t fundamentally against powers of this world but against “spiritual forces of evil” (v. 12). Christianity is a religion that believes in the supernatural. That is, we believe in a world beyond this world. We believe in angels and demons. We believe in heaven and hell. We believe that God, a spiritual being, created the heavens and the earth. If the loss of our material resources causes us utter hopelessness because we believe we have nothing left, we have forgotten the Lord. If our prayer life is nonexistent or merely compulsory, we’ve misunderstood our spiritual situation. Instead, having a biblical mindset will give us an eternal perspective on this life, allowing us to claim with Paul that “whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). It will cause us to pray without ceasing while giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:16–18), for we know that our Lord has conquered the spiritual forces arrayed against us.

For the rest of this edifying article, visit the Ligonier link below. And for a preview of the entire issue, visit the Tabletalk page.

By the way, the daily devotions this year are on core Reformation doctrines in connection with the 500th anniversary. This month features the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, beginning with His eternal decrees, providence, and so on.

Source: Secularism Everywhere by Thomas Brewer

How Well Do You Know Your Enemy, Satan? Feb.1, 2017 Standard Bearer

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (February 1, 2017) is once again filled with interesting, instructive, and edifying articles. One of them is a good follow up to yesterday’s post on spiritual warfare.

sb-feb1-2017-cover

Rev. Brian Huizinga (pastor of Hope PRC in Redlands, CA) is doing an extended series on the Christian’s spiritual warfare, under the rubric “Strength of Youth.” His latest piece continues to treat the importance of knowing our enemies – that triple foe of the believer: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh – with special focus on Satan, that grand deceiver and slanderer of saints past and present.

In this article, titled “Knowing Our Enemies: Satan,” Huizinga breaks down the “profile” of this foe into six (6) parts, the last two of which we post here.

In point #5 he states this about the devil:

Satan is my Constant Foe

  • Some enemies fatigue. Some lose focus. Some eventually give up. Not Satan (I Pet. 5:8).
  • Every day he is ready to meet the challenge of getting me to turn my back on God and walk toward hell, either boasting in iniquity or despairing in hopelessness. Whether I am ready for him when I first stir in bed at dawn or not, he is ready for me – ready to tempt me to have negative thoughts multiplying in my mind as I arise from my slumber, so that I begin my day gloomy, or to have me lose control of my emotions or tongue at the first encounter of something I do not like. He exerts his influence upon me in the sanctuary to make sure I get jealous of so-and-so as she walks in, to make sure I think about the game during congregational prayer, or to make sure that when we guys gather in our circle afterward we demean others, especially so-and-so with his dorky haircut. He is present on every date to make sure we get alone time and temptations to compromise our chastity. When I leave the job interview with no job, he tempts me to imagine I am a worthless failure. Even while I pray, he tempts me to think about something other than the immediate presence of God’s majesty, or to doubt that God really will forgive me, or that God even hears my confession. Relentless he is.

But he ends with this consoling truth (point #6):

Christ is Satan’s Lord

  • Satan is not the Lord of the universe but subject to my Christ who is. Not unto thee, Satan, but to our God will we forever exclaim and pray, “For in Jesus Christ Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen!”
  • Because Christ who bruised Satan’s head on the cross is Satan’s Lord, Satan will never claim and bring to perdition an elect child of the Lord (John 6:39, 10:29). Rather, the lake of fire will soon claim Satan forever (Rev. 20:10). My comfort is that I belong to the Lord.

Spiritual Warfare: the Belt of Truth

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaTonight we are hosting discussion groups in our home and we will be continuing our study of spiritual warfare using the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura (RHB, 2014). This valuable book is basically an exposition of Ephesians 6:10-18, the classic NT passage on the Christian’s spiritual battles against his spiritual enemies.

As we resume our study this year, we are up to the chapters treating the armor of God as laid out in Eph.6:13-17:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Tonight we look at the first part of the armor – the girdle or belt of truth (v.14a). In the book this is explained in chapter 5 – “The Belt of Truth.” For your benefit as well, I post a few of the authors’ comments on this piece of our armor.

Clearly, the apostle uses this imagery to call Christians to stand ready for the fight. His words signify a transition from a relaxed to an action mode.In other words, the apostle is calling us to spiritual arms. War is upon us. The alarm has sounded. The battle lines have been drawn; therefore, we must responsibly gird ourselves for holy, active combat. Paul hands us our first piece of equipment, and we must put it on to be ready.

They continue with more detail:

The truth is our first line of spiritual defense against the devil. Truth is an indispensable piece of armor; it functions spiritually as the believer’s belt. We can imagine Paul the prisoner glancing over at his guard as he wrote this letter. Undoubtedly, he noticed the thick leather belt around the soldier’s waist, the central piece of equipment he wore. So the apostle begins his list of spiritual armor by writing metaphorically about the belt that we are to wear: As the soldier’s belt was placed at the center of his body, so truth must be central in our lives, encompassing all that we do if we are to be prepared for the fight with Satan, our crafty foe.

Which leads them to add:

By truth we bind up everything in our lives that is loose that might cause us to stumble in spiritual battle. Without truth girded about us, we will stumble and be overtaken. …It [the belt of truth] is strategic in the spiritual sense because without it, nothing else will stay in place. Without the belt of truth, we are exposed and utterly vulnerable to the devil’s schemes and are unable to stand against him (pp.43-44).

Note to Self: Repent

Start by reading and meditating on 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Dear Self,

You will never be done with repentance – at least, not until death or Christ’s return. While it is something you should be doing frequently, it is not something you just ‘get used to.’ Repentance requires a daily intentionality. And let’s be honest; you will have more to repent of by the end of the day than you can possibly remember. So, where should you start?

…It will be helpful to think of repentance in three parts: revulsion, resolution, and repetition. Revulsion is finding something offensive or distasteful. In this case, it is seeing the heinousness of sin and pulling back from it. Sin, your sin in particular, should make you recoil. …Revulsion will come only when you see the holy, just, and good character of God in contrast to yourself. Until you understand that your sin, all of it, is a self-destructive rebellion against God that betrays your purpose and denies his worthiness, you will not experience revulsion.

Resolution is purposing to walk in righteousness, delighting in God’s law, laying off the old self, and walking in newness of life. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for what you are and have done. It is having the resolve to live for the glory and pleasure of God.

Repetition is the ongoing nature of this work. Without repetition, it is all for nothing, for as long as you continue to sin, you need to repent.If your repentance is not continual, it means, at the very least, that you are simply choosing some sins to deal with, while ignoring others.

…The deepness and consistency of your repenting will have a direct impact on the liveliness of your faith and the brightness of your confidence. This is not because you repent so well, but because in repenting you know the darkness and trouble of your own sin, and the great work of grace in Jesus that overcomes it all.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.30 “Repent” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp. 99-100.

Note to Self: Hate Well

Begin by reading and reflecting on Proverbs 8:13.

Dear Self,

In all your longing to love as Christ loved, you sometimes forget that true love for one thing will, or at least should, produce a hatred for whatever stands against it. Do not neglect cultivating hatred, an intense hatred, for the right things. Authentic love and zeal for God will produce abhorrence for all that stands opposed to him and his purposes. Genuine love for your neighbor will produce within you antipathy toward all that robs him of his dignity or leads her away from God.

Do you hate pride and arrogance? Injustice and the way of evil? Hurtful speech? Do false gospels and false teachers create a holy hostility in you? Do you hate works-righteousness and the false promise of peace with God through performance? I hope you do.

And what about your own sin? Do you see it? Is it ever before your eyes? Do you really hate it for what it is, or do you simply dislike its unpleasant consequences? If you hate your sin only because of the pain it has caused you in this life, then your hatred stems from self-love and does not come from a burning love for God.

At times you have wondered why you are so complacent, unmoved. You have grown frustrated with your lack of progress in the faith. It may be because you lack true and balanced passion – love and hatred. One will move you to recoil from sin, and the other will move you to hold on to Jesus.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.28 “Hate Well” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.95-96.

Two Sonnets of Winston W. Wharton (Cactus Rose)

CactusRose-cover-1941Today while making a quick pass through a local thrift store, I found a thin collection of poems that turns out to be a rare treasure (note the price on Amazon). The collection is called Cactus Rose or Streamlined Sonnets composed by Winston W. Wharton (a pen name?) and published by the Christian Board of Publication, St.Louis, MO, in 1941 (1st edition). This copy is signed by the author, about whom I would like to know more (an Internet search revealed precious little?!). Perhaps this post will generate some interest and some more information.

Cactus-Rose-Wharton-1941

In any case, the sonnets are quite good, many of them on nature themes (birds, flowers, nature scenes, etc.), with quite a few also being on distinctively Christian-biblical themes. Tonight I give you a sample of two such poems of Wharton. I trust they will edify you as they did me.

“Thy Will Be Done”

The hours I spend with Thee, dear Lord,
Are portents of the years to be,
When I shall know, where now I know in part,
Thy love for me, Thy love for me.

Each hour a breath of life Divine,
Fresh from thy incensed mercy seat;
I drink and feel my soul renewed
And kneel and kiss Thy feet.

O, Risen Lord, hold thou my hand,
Until at last goes down the sun,
And help me answer to each blest command
Thy will be done, O Lord, Thy will be done.

“The Angel of the Lord”

Arise, O soul of mine,
And face the stern array
Of forces unforeseen,
That dog us night and day;
Be not afraid to stand
And fight the battle out –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

It seems sometimes the night
Has superseded day,
That hell is running things
And righteousness don’t pay;
But, be thou strong and stand
Amid the din and shout –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

Our God is not asleep,
Nor is His arm grown short;
He watches every man
And leadeth each cohort;
And, though the foe may seem
To win, he’s on the rout –
The angel of the Lord
Encampeth round about.

So, trust you in our God,
Jehovah, Lord of Hosts;
He harbors him who trusts
And laughs at him who boasts;
A shelter still have we –
The shadow of His wings –
The angel of the Lord
Encamps, encores and sings.
Psalm 34:7.

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 Ligonier.org

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.

“You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.” – A.Kuyper

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Once more we pick up where we left off last time in Abraham Kuyper’s translated work The Practice of Godliness, the first section titled “The Christian Warfare”, where the fifth chapter describes that battle as it takes place in the church of Jesus Christ. This next quotation is under the sub-heading “obedience.”

     Then, too, it no longer matters if there are no immediate results upon your efforts and protests against evil [in the church]. That makes no difference at all.

For you realize that you have no right or claim to a model church. You acknowledge yourself a humble sinner whose imperfections add to the corruption of the church.

Whether you live to see the church sink deeper into the mire, or to see it lifted to higher planes makes no difference. You are in duty bound to defend her against her enemies all the days of your life, with all of God’s children.

You obey. God bids you labor in His vineyard, and you do so with all the strength He gives you. He bids you not to sit with the scoffers and the ungodly, and you separate yourself from them. He bids you resist the onslaughts of evil upon His house, and you resist them.

When you have learned thus to obey, the battle for the Lord goes on without pause, yet calmly and steadily. It is a labor that looks not upon the results.

You are no longer striving for what you want or deem necessary; you are not impatient, not wearied with complaining or unmanned by disappointment. You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.

And God, who is merciful, will crown your efforts, in home and heart and church, with His blessing.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), p.61.