Note to Self: Speak to Others

Note-to-self-Thorn(Recall the last one was “Listen to Others.”)

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

Are you connected to others in such a way that affords you opportunities to speak into their lives? Just as God has put people near you to speak to you for your God, so he has intended to use you to speak words of grace to others. The questions are – are you connected, and are you speaking?

…At times you feel as if you have little to say, or that your words are too simple and not deep enough. But when you doubt that you have anything to offer, you question God’s ability to use you beyond your own weakness. Your usefulness in the lives of others is not dependent on your intellectual or creative abilities, though God will use your talents whatever they are. Your usefulness to God and his people is connected with your dependence on God and his Word and your love for his people.

The people around you need to hear from you. Share God’s Word with those who need to hear it.

Taken from Chap.24 “Speak to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.85-86.

Are We Living by the Bible’s Authority? – Prof. R. Cammenga

StandardBearerOur food for thought on this Lord’s Day come from an article by Prof. Ronald Cammenga that appeared in the August 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.92, #19). It is part of the “Taking Heed to the Doctrine” rubric and belongs to a series he is doing on revelation, inspiration, and infallibility in connection with the doctrine of Scripture.

Here are his closing thoughts on the matter of the Bible’s authority:

I doubt that very few, if anyone, who reads this article would disagree with the teaching that the Bible is the supreme authority in the church and in the life of the believer.  We all confess that by virtue of our subscription to the Reformed confessions.  But what about practically?  On a practical level, do we honor the authority of Scripture?  We all ought to examine ourselves.  The Bible says that we are to seek first the kingdom of heaven, believing that God will take care of our earthly needs.  Do we seek first in our lives the kingdom of heaven.  The Bible says that we are not to set our heart upon riches, earthly fame, or glory among men.  Have we set our hearts on riches, earthly fame, or glory among men?  The Bible calls us to live in the world, but not be one with the world.  Do we live antithetically, in the world while not of the world; or, are we friends with the children of this world and run with them in the same excess of riot (I Peter 4:4)?  The Bible calls us to honor our parents and all who are in authority over us.  Do we honor those through whom it pleases God to govern our lives?  The Bible calls us to date and marry in the Lord.  Are we dating and do we intend to marry in the Lord?  The Lord calls us to live chastely and temperately in this present evil world, and not give ourselves to indulgence in sexual uncleanness.  Do we strive to live out of the conviction that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit?  The Bible calls us to live faithfully in marriage; it calls husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.  Are we living faithfully in our marriages?  Do we as husbands love, nourish, and cherish our wives?  And do we as wives reverence, submit to, and assist our husbands in all things?

It is one thing to subscribe to the truth of Scripture’s sole authority.  It is quite another thing to live in such a way that we submit to Scripture’s authority.  May God give us the needed grace to honor this first and outstanding perfection of Scripture.

7 Different Ways to Read a Book

Summer readingTim Challies recently reposted something he wrote back in the summer of 2014. It is worth mentioning here again too, since we can so easily reduce our reading too to a single level – whether too shallow or too deep. He reminds us that it is good to read at multiple levels, and that we become better readers and benefit more when we read in different ways.

This is how he opens his post; following that I give you two of the ways in which he says we ought to read. I hope you find this reminder helpful and encouraging as you press on in your own reading.

Reading is kind of like repairing a bicycle. Kind of. For too long now my bike has been semi-operational. It has one brake that just doesn’t want to behave and all my attempts to fix it have failed. Why? Well it turns out that I haven’t been using the right tool. To get the bike working I need to use the right tool. And when it comes to reading, well, you’ve got to use the right tool—you’ve got to know what kind of reading to do. Here are seven different kinds of reading.

And here are two of the seven ways in which we ought to read (I have chosen these because I judge them most important to the Christian. But, again, remember, there are at least five other ways to read.):

Studying. Studying is reading at its best, I think, but reading that can and should be done with only the choicest books. Life is too short and there are simply too many books to invest a great deal of time in every one of them. And this is where so many readers go wrong—they spend too much time and invest too much effort in books that simply don’t deserve it. When you study a book, you labor over it, you read it with highlighter in hand, you flip back and forth, you try to learn absolutely everything the book offers. Only the smallest percentage of books are worthy of this level of investment, so choose carefully which books you study. (Suggestions: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen or The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul)

Devotional. Devotional reading is reading deep truths meant to make a deep impact on your faith. This is slow and meditative reading that requires an open Bible and plenty of prayer. The Christian faith has many wonderful devotional works that are drawn from the Bible and will, in turn, draw you to the Bible. Read these ones day-by-day and allow them to lead you closer to God as he reveals himself through his Word. (Consider: The Reformed Expository Commentary series or Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon)

Source: 7 Different Ways to Read a Book

Published in: on August 10, 2016 at 10:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

Don’t Be Weary in Doing God’s Beauty Work! – Rev. C. Haak

RWHmasthead

Our thoughts for reflection on this first Lord’s Day in August come from a message Rev.C. Haak delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour program last month (which had also been broadcast previously).

The message is titled “Not Weary in Well-Doing” (for the audio version go here) and is based on the Word of God in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well-doing:  for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Below is a portion of his exposition of that text. May we find it a necessary rebuke for our sluggishness and a powerful encouragement to our weary souls.

  Now, when the apostle says, “Don’t be weary in well-doing,” he is not referring just to a few people, but he is referring to all the people of God.  He is not referring just to giving things to the poor, but he is referring to our whole life as we are to live that life out of Jesus Christ.  Does he refer to the work of elder or deacon in your church?  Yes.  But mothers in the home and fathers, too, as they bring up their children, as they go to work to support their family.  Our church life is included.  Our marriages are included.  And all the deeds of thoughtfulness and kindness that we are to do in His name.  Witnessing to the gospel and pursuing the evangelism call of the church.  All of these things are well-doing.

        Literally, we could translate this “beauty work.”  Do not be weary in beauty work.  That is a very powerful word of God because there we see that apart from God every doing, every act, and every deed is darkness.  Apart from the beauty of God’s grace working first in our hearts, every work that is performed on the earth, the Bible says, is ugly, smelly, soiled in pride.  But there is beauty.  And that beauty comes from God alone.  It is the beauty of His grace when He works through His people in Jesus Christ.  It is that which does not then come out of self, that which is not rooted in self, but that which is of grace in us.  That is beauty work.  And even though now those works, too, are shot through with our own sin, yet God smiles because He sees in that work His wonderful grace.  Now do not be weary in beauty work.

        Further, we learn that this well-doing is synonymous with sowing to the Spirit.  Look at verses 7 and 8 and see that the Word of God has set down a principle for everyone.  There we read, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  There are only two possibilities.  One is either sowing, in his life, to his destruction, or he is sowing, in his life, to life eternal.

…Are you sowing greed in your life as a father?  Then the Word of God says, “Don’t expect contentment but expect a constricted heart, and anxious nights, and narrow eyes.”  Are you sowing gossip in your church?  Do you talk about others?  Then do not expect peace and love in your church or in your marriage or family.  But you shall harvest division and tension.  Are you, as a young man, sowing lust through pornography in your life?  Then do not expect that you are ever going to be satisfied if God gives you a wife.  What you sow you shall also reap.

        So, well-doing, then, is to be understood as that work of the Spirit of Christ whereby we sow looking for the life that is to come, that we might have an abundant harvest then.

        But you understand that that well-doing is very hard, it is very difficult, it is continuous, it is never-ending.  And this is really, I believe, the point of the apostle.  You do not see the fruit of this kind of work quickly.  Because that is the case, we become discouraged and our souls begin to sag.  You say to me, “Are you telling me that my work as a mother is beauty-work?  Are you trying to mock me?  Have you ever seen my house on a Monday morning?  It’s upside-down.  Beauty-work with my child?  I yell at my child.  How can that be beauty-work?”  “Beauty-work in our marriage” you say to me?  “Well, that’s hard work!”  And maybe you say, “It’s never going to change.  Our marriage is not going to change.  He’s not going to change.  We’re just going to have to resign ourselves to have to live with it.  We give up.”

        Maybe you say that in the church.  You say, “I’ve tried to be active in the communion of the saints.  I’ve tried to have people over to my house.  There is no reciprocation.  Beauty-work?  I’ve been hurt in the church!”  Maybe as an elder you say to me, “Pastor, you’re calling our work beauty-work, but in the church it seems that the problems are greater than anywhere else!”  And maybe personally you say, “I’m weary.  I can’t seem to get out of the doldrums.  The spiritual resilience has departed from my life because of obstacles, because of the sins of others, because of my own sins.  I’m tempted to say, ‘Well, if that’s the way they’re going to be, see if I care!’”

        So often we find ourselves then settling down into the routine.  The earlier days of fresh spiritual vigor are a distant dream.  We become discouraged and we become tempted to withdraw from doing good—in church, in marriage, in family, in our personal life.  We begin to multiply obstacles and magnify obstacles and say, “We can’t do that!”  We are ready to quit.  And we would, if we could find a good excuse for doing so.

Family Worship – Final Encouragement

family-worship-whitney-2016In the last few months we have been taking a look at a new publication of Crossway that I requested for review. The book is Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.), and we have been drawing some good encouragement from it for being faithful in family devotions or worship.

In the last chapter (5) – “Isn’t This What You Really Want to Do?” – Whitney gives us final motivation for carrying out this calling, including a series of questions, the last of which is the title to the chapter.

But he also has a series of closing admonitions, starting with husbands/fathers and families, before addressing single persons too. For today, I quote from his words to fathers and family members.

First, to fathers Whitney says,

Husbands, fathers – if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today or tonight. Almost certainly your wife will be thrilled more than you can imagine to hear you say that. Your children may or may not be as enthusiastic, but that does not really matter. The less interest they show, the more your family needs family worship.

The Lord will help you. He does not call his Spirit-begotten sons to this task without giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it. The same Father who gave you the gospel and drew you to Christ will strengthen you by his Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood (p.65).

Let that encourage us to begin anew or press on, men.

And then this there is this encouragement for the family:

Family members – have the willing spirit of Jacob’s household. After he called them to follow his leadership in the family worship of God, Genesis 35:4 tells us, ‘So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.’ Respond just as willingly to the call to family worship in your home. Encourage your husband or dad in his desire to bring the blessings of God upon you. Do not be a stumbling block in his efforts to obey God (p.65).

Shall we all strive in our covenant families to be more diligent and devoted to this holy activity? Is anything – other than our worship on the Lord’s day – more important? Isn’t this what you too really want to do?!

Justin Martyr – Apology (2)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers and church fathers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter four of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER IV — CHRISTIANS UNJUSTLY CONDEMNED FOR THEIR MERE NAME.

By the mere application of a name, nothing is decided, either good or evil, apart from the actions implied in the name; and indeed, so far at least as one may judge from the name we are accused of, we are most excellent people. But as we do not think it just to beg to be acquitted on account of the name, if we be convicted as evildoers, so, on the other hand, if we be found to have committed no offence, either in the matter of thus naming ourselves, or of our conduct as citizens, it is your part very earnestly to guard against incurring just punishment, by unjustly punishing those who are not convicted. For from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring, unless something excellent or base in action be proved.

And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust.

Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justice requires that you inquire into the life both of him who confesses and of him who denies, that by his deeds it may be apparent what kind of man each is.

For as some who have been taught by the Master, Christ, not to deny Him, give encouragement to others when they are put to the question, so in all probability do those who lead wicked lives give occasion to those who, without consideration, take upon them to accuse all the Christians of impiety and wickedness.

And this also is not right. For of philosophy, too, some assume the name and the garb who do nothing worthy of their profession; and you are well aware, that those of the ancients whose opinions and teachings were quite diverse, are yet all called by the one name of philosophers. And of these some taught atheism; and the poets who have flourished among you raise a laugh out of the uncleanness of Jupiter with his own children. And those who now adopt such instruction are not restrained by you; but, on the contrary, you bestow prizes and honours upon those who euphoniously insult the gods.

Note to Self: Welcome (Hospitality)

Begin by reading Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.

Dear Self,

Hospitality… is the will of God for you. God commands you to be hospitable. …He calls you to be hospitable because he himself is a welcomer of strangers and loves the sojourner.

…Throughout history, God has called his people to welcome outsiders into their cities, homes, and lives. Israel was commanded to practice hospitality with their Jewish neighbors but also to welcome, care for, and bless those who visited their cities. Likewise, the church is also commanded to welcome both believers and unbelievers.

…The most basic idea behind hospitality is to care for outsiders in a way that you would care for insiders. You welcome them. So, when was the last time you invited outsiders into your home? Into your busy life? Outsiders are not those close to you but those who are not yet a part of your life. This includes people at church you have not taken the time to meet as well as your neighbors and coworkers you do not yet know. They may be outside or inside the kingdom, but they are currently outside of your ministry influence.

Of course there is no better picture of hospitality than what we find in the gospel, for in the gospel God calls those who were not his people, ‘My people.” By faith we are orphans who have been adopted into God’s family, made coheirs with Christ, and are promised a place at his table in the kingdom to come. God has accepted you and welcomed you in Christ. You know what it is to be an outsider and yet received as an insider, so you should be ready to show others what that kind of grace looks like on a smaller scale in your home.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.22 “Welcome” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.81-82.

The Divine Will – The Valley of Vision

ValleyofVisionOn this Sunday morning we consider another Puritan prayer devotion from the book The Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett (Banner of Truth, c.1975).

This prayer is taken from the first section “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and is titled “The Divine Will.”

The Divine Will

“O Lord,

I hang on thee; I see, believe, live when thy will, not mine, is done;

I can plead nothing in myself in regard of any worthiness and grace, in regard of thy providence and promises, but only thy good pleasure.

If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!

Prayers arising from my need are preparations for future mercies;

Help me honor thee by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.

Show me what sins hide me from thee and eclipse thy love;

Help me to humble myself for past evils, to be resolved to walk with more care,

For if I do not walk holily before thee, how can I be assured of my salvation?

It is the meek and humble who are shown thy covenant, know thy will, are pardoned and healed, who by faith depend and rest upon grace, who are sanctified and quickened, who evidence thy love.

Help me to pray in faith and so find thy will, by leaning hard on thy rich free mercy, by believing that thou wilt give what thou hast promised;

Strengthen me to pray with the conviction that whatever I receive is thy gift, so that I may pray until prayer be granted;

Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise from several degrees of prayer, that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow, as chapped ground opens wider and wider until rain comes.

So shall I wait thy will, pray for it to be done, and by thy grace become fully obedient.”

You may find all these devotionals on the Banner of Truth website.

Justin Martyr – Apology (1)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In the weeks and months ahead we plan to post some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapter three of Justin’s first apology:

CHAPTER III — CLAIM OF JUDICIAL INVESTIGATION.

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.

Word Wednesday: Candle – Rev.W. Langerak

StandardBearerThe latest biblical word study has been published in the July 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer. This time Rev. W. (Bill) Langerak writes about the meaning and significance of the word “candle.”

We make it our Word Wednesday feature today. May his thoughts enlighten your mind and encourage you to shine as lights in this world of darkness.

Candle

The candle is a significant biblical picture.  This should not be that surprising, since for thousands of years candles were a prominent appliance in the everyday life and even worship of the church.  The fact that candles have little practical value and use today does not diminish their continued spiritual significance as an enlightening symbol for us.

   In general, the candle symbolizes the presence, life, and knowledge of God.  In a real sense, God gives to every man a candle.  The spirit of man (that God breathed into him in the beginning) is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly (Prov. 20:27).  But such light is not grace to all.  God’s presence indeed gives life and knowledge, but it also condemns man and his use of that life as unrighteous, unthankful, and wicked.  There is no reward to the evil man, and in anger the Lord shall put out the candle of the wicked (Prov. 24:20; Job 21:17).  His sentence upon man’s kingdom and culture of sin is that “the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee” (Rev. 18:23).  Only in Christ is God’s presence a candle of grace.  Knowing this, the believer joyfully exclaims, “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 18:28).  This candle of the righteous shines so he can walk in darkness (Job 29:3).  The smoking flax (wick) of this candle the Lord will never quench (Is. 42:3).  And the candle of the virtuous woman goes not out by night, not merely because her godly care knows no limits, but because she lives constantly in the light of God’s gracious presence.

   The candle is also a glorious picture of the church.  A notable feature in the tabernacle was the menorah, a splendid seven-branched candlestick.  It is mentioned 22 times in the Torah, including how the Lord ordered it to be crafted out of pure gold, decorated with gold almond blossoms, and fueled by the purest olive oil (Ex. 25:31-35).  When moved, it was to be carefully wrapped in fine blue cloth, protected in a leather case, and carried on a pole.  When at rest in God’s house, it was to be lit every night. And on the day of dedication, the Lord gave special instruction from behind the veil that its candles were to be mounted to illuminate the way to His mercy (Num. 7:89-8:4).  Night and day, the Lord was always home, blessing His covenant people with the light of His Spirit, guiding them to His unfailing grace through His atoning sacrifice.

   This picture finds further development in the new covenant vision of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:11-13).  Here, the candles represent more clearly, not simply the presence of God with us, but the church itself as she lives in the world—distinct yet united, imperfect yet glorious in righteousness and works of holiness, by Christ in their midst by His Spirit (Rev. 1:20).  As a candle, the church is a continual witness to the grace and glory of God enlightening them before the whole earth (Rev. 11:4).  And if any particular church stubbornly refuses to be such a witness by leaving her love for the Lord to walk with the world in unrighteousness, the Lord can and does remove such a candle out of its place (Rev. 2:5). 

   As candles lit by the Holy Spirit of Christ in the midst of a world dark with sin, the true church and her members have only one purpose:  to broadcast the light in us of the power of God’s grace to forgive sins, sanctify, and give eternal life.  Unlit candles are useless.  So are flickering ones.  To shine brightly, the whole body must be full of light.  Take heed, therefore, that the light in you be not darkness (Luke 11:35-36).  Equally useless are bright candles hidden in foolishness, fear, or shame.  Candles are not meant to be placed under a bed or a bushel (Mark 4:21).  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world; a city set on an hill that cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). 

   Yet, in spite of their significance and value here, in the new creation all this changes.  There will be no candles there.  Not one.  Why?  Because there in Jesus’ presence, there shall be no night, only day; and no darkness, only light (Rev. 22:5).

For more such word studies from the Scriptures, visit this section of the PRC website.

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