The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

Note to Self: What is Preaching to Ourselves?

Note-to-self-ThornLast Sunday I began to introduce you to a “new” book I picked up in a local thrift store – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

The main part of the book consists of specific “notes to self”, applying the gospel we hear each week to ourselves. These personal applications are grouped into three sections:

  • Part One: The Gospel and God
  • Part Two: The Gospel and Others
  • Part Three: The Gospel and You

We will be taking a look at some of these specific “notes to self” in the weeks ahead, but for today we should start by looking at the author’s introduction. Under the heading “Preaching to Ourselves?”, Thorn starts by defining what he means by “the discipline of preaching to yourself”:

…Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.

In that connection, he also explains why this is so important and so necessary:

     …It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through his Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

And he closes out this part of his introduction with these words:

     This personal, devotional work is essential to our own health, but also to our effectiveness in sharing the law and the gospel with others. The more deeply we understand and experience law and gospel, the more capable we become in communicating and applying it to those around us. A good teacher or evangelist is first of all a good preacher to himself (p.24).

Prayers of the Reformers (12) – “O Christe, Morgensterne”

 

For this fourth Lord’s Day of January 2016 we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both of these are taken from the section “Prayers for Newness of Life.”

May they help prepare us for worship on this day of our risen Savior, so that He is glorified in all we do.

rev22-18-morningstar

 

O Christe, Morgensterne

O Christ, Thou bright and morning Star,
Now shed Thy light abroad;
Shine on us from Thy glorious throne afar
With Thy pure glorious Word.

O Jesus, Comfort of the poor,
I lift my heart to Thee;
I know Thy mercies still endure,
And Thou wilt pity me.

For Thou didst suffer for my soul,
Her burdens to remove:
O make me through Thy sorrows whole,
Refresh me with Thy love.

Then, Jesus, glory, honor, praise
I’ll ever sing to Thee;
And Thou at last my soul wilt raise
To endless joys with Thee.

-Unknown, 1579 (p.81)

For hearing God’s Word (slightly edited)

Almighty God, as nothing is better for us or more necessary for our chief happiness than to depend on Thy Word, for that is a sure pledge of Thy good will towards us, grant that, as Thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit, we may be attentive to hear Thee and submit ourselves to Thee in true fear, meekness, and humility.

May we be prepared in the spirit of meekness to receive whatever proceeds from Thee, and may Thy Word not only be precious to us, but also sweet and delightful, until we shall enjoy the perfection of that life which Thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by His own blood. Amen

-John Calvin (p.79)

Turning from Vanity – Rev.M. DeVries

Ps119-37The meditation for the January 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer was written by Rev. Michael DeVries, PRC pastor in Kalamazoo, MI. It is a reflection on the prayer found in Psalm 119:37, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity ; and quicken thou me in thy way.”

Penned with the new year in mind, this meditation contains timely and timeless thoughts for us believers living in the twenty-first century. Here are a few of these considerations as we seek to flee the vanities about us and within us in 2016:

A Fervent Prayer
Who can deny that this world is filled with vanities? Who can ignore the horrible manifestations of sin that we see? Shocking immorality! Gross perversion of God’s ordinance of marriage! Unbelievable filth – vanity! Terrible lawlessness and rebellion – vanity! Economic woes and political chaos – vanity. And in much of the church we see bold apostasy and world conformity – vanity! We behold fantastic wealth, luxuries, pleasures, and entertainments – vanity!

…The term “vanity” comes from a root word which means breath or vapor. Go outside in the frigid temperatures of winter and exhale into the cold air. That puff of vapor is vanity! Vanity is that which has no real substance. It is that which is useless and futile. It doesn’t last. Its existence is fleeting. Apart from the fear of the Lord, all the endeavors of man, in every sphere of life, are vanity. All of his learning and culture, his science and philosophy, his invention and industry, his finance and economics, his recreation and entertainment, his life at home, at work, at play – vanity, all vanity! It is all passing away. Man finds no real joy, no real satisfaction, no true peace.

For sin and the curse of God’s righteous wrath beset this world and all the endeavors of men. We see utter rebellion against all Biblical standards of morality and even common decency. And it all ends in the vanity of death and the grave. Almighty God will not be mocked and shall cast the ungodly down into destruction. This is the world of vanity in which we have walked in 2015 and in which we are required to continue walking in 2016.

By God’s grace we pray, yea, we pray fervently, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” By grace we are not one with this world of vanity. Yet we feel the tug, the pull in the direction of the vanities of this world. For we are still beset with our sinful natures that belong to this world of vanity. We realize the appeal, the attraction, the allurement of this world of vanities. Perhaps especially in our youth – physical appearance, popularity, possessions, money – who can deny the appeal?

And so, by grace we express our heartfelt need unto the Lord, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. “ We realize that as earthy creatures all of our senses are attracted to these vanities, but especially our sense of sight. That’s why our culture of “screens” is so dangerous – from smart phones and tablets to large screen televisions to theater screens – the whole world of vanities is there to see! And those images are impressed upon our minds, and we become increasingly hardened and enslaved to the vanities. “O Lord, turn away my eyes!” Is that your plea?

Finding Contentment – Melissa Kruger

TT-Dec-2015Contentment is a great subject to occupy our minds and hearts at the end of this year 2015, and the December issue of Tabletalk directs us to this very matter with its theme “Contentment.”

One of the featured articles is the one linked below, penned by Melissa Kruger, wife and mother married to Dr. Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.

She lays out a wonderful summary of what it means to find contentment in this age of greed, covetousness, and discontent.

Here is part of what she says in her introduction:

…Culture may view contentment as something we gain through relationships, wealth, power, and privilege, but the Bible sets forth very different qualifications for contentment. Biblical contentment unfolds from the Spirit’s work in a believer’s heart, mind, life, and hope. These four qualifications set an eternal foundation for unwavering contentment that holds steady through life’s seasons and storms.

From there she gives those four (4) foundations “for unwavering contentment,” the first of which is this (the most important one!):

A Trusting Heart

The cornerstone of contentment is a heart that trusts the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7–8 confidently asserts:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

This passage, alongside similar imagery in Psalm 1, presents a lovely picture of contentment. The tree’s ability to flourish is independent of circumstances because it has an enduring source from which to drink. Whatever season may come, the tree is always bearing fruit.

On the eve of His death, Jesus furthered this imagery when He taught His disciples: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just like the tree, we possess an everlasting source from which to find nourishment. We abide in Jesus by spending time in the Word, seeking Him in prayer, and walking in obedience to His commands (John 15:7–11). Jesus is our fount, providing the strength, refreshment, and encouragement we need to withstand any and every circumstance we may face, while still bearing the fruit of contentment.

Apart from Christ, we are dry branches, parched and thirsty, always craving more. Jeremiah 17:5 warns, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come.” It is impossible to have biblical contentment apart from abiding in Christ.

By trusting in Jesus, we do not have to fear either abundance or hardship. When dificulties and trials come, His strength is sufficient. When joys and pleasures come, His grace enables us to rejoice in the Giver of all good things. A heart that trusts in God can joyfully proclaim with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

To read the rest, visit the link below. To read another fine article on this subject, “Our New Affection” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, visit the Ligonier link provided with the title.

Source: Finding Contentment by Melissa Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Prayers of the Reformers (11) – Confession and Hope

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this final Lord’s Day of 2015, we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both are taken from the section “Confession and Penitence” and I include the headings below as they appear in the book (I have slightly edited the prayers by adding paragraphs).

Both prayers are fitting for our reflection and petition as we come to the close of the year and as we worship this day in the presence of our God.

Without God, nothing [Martin Luther]

O God, where would we be if thou shouldst forsake us? What can we do if thou withdrawest thy hand? What can we know if thou never enlightenest? How quickly the learned become babes; the prudent, simple; and the wise, fools! How terrible art thou in all thy works and judgments!

Let us walk in the light while we have it, so that darkness may not overcome us. Many renounce their faith and become careless and weary of thy grace. Deceived by Satan into thinking they know everything and have no need, they feel satisfied and thus become slothful and ungrateful, and are soon corrupted.

Therefore, help us to remain in the ardor of faith that we may daily increase in it through Jesus Christ our real and only Helper.

Amen.

 

Confession and hope in Christ [Otto Wermullerus]

O almighty, everlasting God, merciful Father of heaven, thou hast created us after thine own image, and endowed us with exceeding plentiful gifts. Yet notwithstanding all thy benefits, we have in many and sundry ways contemned and transgressed thy commandments. All our days are passed forth with grievous sins. We fear and flee from thee, as from a righteous judge. All this, whatsoever it be, we freely acknowledge and confess, and are sorry for it from the bottom of our hearts.

But, O heavenly Father, we cry and call for thy great mercy: O enter not with us into judgment; remember not the sins of our youth. O think upon us according to thy mercy, for thy name’s sake, and for thy goodness, which hath been from everlasting. Vouchsafe to grant us thy mercy, which thou according to the contents of the gospel hast promised and opened through thy beloved Son, that whoso believeth on him shall have everlasting life.

Now is our belief in Jesus Christ, even in the only Redeemer of the whole world. We utterly refuse all other comfort, help and assistance; and our hope is only through Christ to have pardon of our sins and eternal life. Thy words are true; be it unto us according to thy words: O let us enjoy the benefits of the passion and death of thine only-begotten Son. Take for our sins the satisfaction and payment of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to our own belief. Of this our faith thou shalt thyself, O Lord, be witness, and all thine elect.

Our last will also shall it be, by thy mercy, to die in this faith. Though we now, by occasion of pain, lack of reason, or through temptation should fall away, suffer us not yet, O Lord, to remain in unbelief and blasphemy; but help our unbelief, strengthen and increase our faith, that sin, death, the devil, and hell do us no harm. Thou art stronger and mightier than they: that is our only trust and confidence.

Amen.

Two New Christian Books on Productivity | Glory Focus

As you know well by now, I have been pointing out the benefits of the book What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (Zondervan, 2014).

DoMoreBetter-ChalliesBut now there is a similar, shorter work that also promotes productivity in the Christian’s work life. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity is by Tim Challies and it deliberately seeks to supplement Perman’s book.

Jason Dollar at “Glory Focus” has posted a short review comparing these two books and today I refer you to that helpful post in case you wish to have a shorter work to read.

Here is the heart of his review; you may find the rest at the link below.

Both books are very good, and they both cover essentially the same material. But Perman delves into every topic in much greater detail than Challies. If Perman is Matthew than Challies is Mark.

For someone who wants to think extensively about being more productive (the whys and the hows), then Perman’s book is the way to go. If someone wants the no-frills basics, then it’s Challies all the way.

I found it very helpful to read both books. What’s Best Next led me to a serious rethinking and retooling of my life mission while Do More Good helped me think carefully about how I use the tools of productivity (in particular Google Calendar, Todoist, and Evernote). Challie’s book is so practical that it sometimes reads like a tutorial for these tools.

Both books maintain that the reason Christians should desire to be productive is so that they can better serve other people for the glory of God. Unlike many other books on efficiency and productivity, Perman and Challies are not interested in helping people make more money or work up a corporate ladder. Instead, they promote a God-centered worldview where self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is what life is all about.

Source: Two New Christian Books on Productivity | Glory Focus

The Book of God: “Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.”

The previous post reminded me again of the “Book of books” that we must be most interested in reading and studying daily, so as to grow in our faith in and fellowship with God through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And that reminded me of a wonderful “Grace Gems” post about the value and profit of this “Book of God.” Here is that post I saved from November 29 of this year:

The Book of God!

(author unknown)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness–that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This book contains:
the mind of God,
the state of man,
the way of salvation,
the doom of lost sinners, and
the happiness of believers.

Its doctrine is holy,
its precepts are binding,
its histories are true, and
its decisions are immutable.

It contains . . .
light to direct you,
food to support you, and
comfort to cheer you.

This book is . . .
the traveler’s map,
the pilgrim’s staff,
the pilot’s compass,
the soldier’s sword, and
the Christian’s charter.

Here Heaven is open–and the gates of Hell are disclosed.

Christ is the grand subject,
our good is its design, and
the glory of God is its end.

This book should . . .
fill the memory,
rule the heart,
and guide the feet.

It is . . .
a mine of wealth,
health to the soul,
and a river of pleasure.

It . . .
involves the highest responsibility,
will reward the greatest labor, and
condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Read it to be wise,
believe it to be safe,
and practice it to be holy.

Read it . . .
slowly,
frequently,
and prayerfully.

This Book–the Book of Books, the Book of God, the Bible–is the revelation of God to man!

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!

Marie Durand: New Children’s Biography by Simonetta Carr – Reviewed by S.Meade

Source: Marie Durand – Reformation21

Marie-Durand-SCarrI have mentioned the fine children’s biographies by Simonetta Carr here before and we may do so once more, this time through a good review of her latest offering at the website “Reformation21.” The book is titled Marie Durand and the review is by Starr Meade, herself a fine author.

This is the brief description of the book as given by the publisher:

In 1730, nineteen-year-old Marie Durand was arrested and taken from her home in a village in Southern France for the crime of having a brother who was a Protestant preacher. Imprisoned in the Tower of Constance, Marie would spend the next thirty-eight years there. Simonetta Carr introduces us to the inspiring life of a woman who could have recanted her Protestant faith and gained release, but held fast to the truth and encouraged others to do so as well. Beautiful illustrations, a simply told story, and interesting facts acquaint young readers with the challenges facing Protestants in eighteenth-century France and show them that even a life spent in prison can be lived in service to Christ and others.

Below you will find a couple of paragraphs from Meade’s wonderful review of the book. Looks to be another title you will want to add to your family library, or give as a gift for your child or grandchild. Find Meade’s full review at the “Ref21” link above.

As Christian parents, however, we value quiet, everyday faithfulness. We hope our children will remain faithful, especially in relation to Christian beliefs and practice, all their lives. Most of our children will never do anything as earth shaking as inventing the light bulb or developing a system to enable blind people to read. But all of our children will be called upon to believe in Christ and to live out that belief, clinging to it even in the face of gale force cultural winds that seek to loosen their grip.
In Marie Durand, Simonetta Carr has given us a biography of a woman whose greatest achievement was just that–quiet, everyday faithfulness. Marie was a young Protestant Christian in southern France at a time when Protestantism was illegal. As a child and as a teen, she witnessed firsthand–and suffered herself–the persecution that has often come to Christians who want simply to remain faithful to what Scripture calls them to believe and do. Marie had just barely grown to adulthood when, as a teen bride of three months, she was arrested and imprisoned with several other women in a tower. Marie spent the next thirty-eight years of her life in that tower. Participation in the Catholic mass would have been the key to her freedom if she had chosen to use it, but she did not. Who knows? Perhaps, had Marie remained free, she might have achieved some great accomplishment that would have put her front and center on the Amazon page for children’s biographies, but all she ever did was to scratch “Resist” into the wall of the room she lived in for thirty-eight years. (Actually, we’re not even sure she was the one who did that).

– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/book-reviewmarie-durandby-simonetta-carrwhen.php#sthash.YeYlweD2.dpuf

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 563 other followers