Prayers of the Reformers (18)

For this second Sunday in October we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

Luther&LearningThese are both prayers of Martin Luther and are taken from the section “Prayers of Obedience” (I have slightly edited them). Both are fitting for our worship today as well as for our work and walk in the week to come.

For Christian living – Martin Luther

Dear God and Father,

We thank Thee for Thine infinite goodness and love to us. Thou dost continually keep us in the Word, in faith, and in prayer that we may know how to walk before Thee in humility and in fear, and that we may not pride ourselves on our own wisdom and righteousness, skill and strength, but glory alone in Thy power, who art strong when we are weak and dost through us weaklings daily prevail and gain the victory.

We pray Thee so to nurture us that we may please Thee willingly, …that many people may enjoy our fruits and be attracted by us to all godliness. Write into our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit what is so abundantly found in Scripture and let us constantly keep it in mind and permit it to become far more precious to us than our own life and whatever else we cherish on earth. Help us to live and act accordingly.

To Thee be praise and thanks in eternity.  Amen.

Obedience to the command to pray – Martin Luther

Lord,

Thou knowest that I do not presume to come before Thee of myself nor on account of my worthiness. Were I to rely on my merits, I could not lift up mine eyes unto Thee, and would not know how to begin to pray.

But I come because Thou Thyself hast commanded and dost earnestly request that we should call upon Thee, and hast promised to hear us. Thou hast also sent Thine only Son who has taught us what we shall pray and has even spoken the words we shall say. Hence, I know that this prayer is pleasing to Thee.

However great my boldness to consider myself a  child of God in Thy presence may seem to be, I must yield to Thee for Thou wilt have it thus. I would not accuse Thee of falsehood and thus, adding to my sins, offend Thee still more by despising Thy command and doubting Thy promise. Amen.

Note to Self: Live Long

Begin by reading and meditating on Philippians 1:20-26.

And recall last week Monday’s post on living short.

Dear Self,

…While you shouldn’t presume on the grace of God to give you tomorrow, it is not foolish to work today in anticipation of tomorrow. However, tomorrow can only be prepared for by making the most of today. So while you must make the most of the day God has given you, it is important to look ahead to where your day might lead you and others down the road. You are never just living for the moment. You are living for eternity, and your life has the potential to prove fruitful not only for yourself, but also for many others.

To live long means that you are thinking into the future for the well-being of yourself and others. It is good to ask if you have a plan in place to grow your family in the faith, preparing them for the potential hardships ahead that you are most likely to lead them through.

…Consider your calling, and then determine what it means for you, as a Christian, to fulfill your calling in such a way that will glorify God, serve his mission, and demonstrate grace to the world.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.27 “Live Long” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.91-92.

The Christian Faith of Jane Austen

8-women-haykin-2016A few weeks back I did a post on some new books from Crossway publishers, one of which was Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin (2016). One of the woman written about in this book is Jane Austen, 1775-1817 (author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and many more).

(As a partial aside, I might mention that I really want a woman (young or old!) to take this book that I offered for review, and to this date no one has. Would you reconsider, ladies?)

Recently Crossway did a feature on this title and included an excerpt, from which I also quote today. I include a couple of paragraphs, encouraging you to read the rest of Crossway’s post by following the link that follows.

Jane “displays an Anglican reticence about religious affections”[1] and is very interested in Christianity as a teacher of morals. Given this, it is not surprising that Jane was not an evangelical.[2] In fact, in 1809, Jane was forthright: referring to a novel by Hannah More, she told her sister Cassandra, “I do not like the Evangelicals.”[3] By 1814, however, her attitude had changed. As she told her niece Fanny Knight (1793–1882): “I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am persuaded that they who are so from reason & feeling, must be happiest & safest.”[4]

Haykin then points to Austen’s prayers as evidence of her Christian faith, prayers that show her familiarity with and use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

An excellent vantage point to see Jane’s faith is one of three written prayers that have been attributed to her and that probably date from Jane’s life after the death of her father in 1805,[9] though there are doubts about the authenticity of two of them.[10] The third runs as follows and does seem to have been written by Jane:

Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed, and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere, & our resolutions steadfast of endeavouring against the commission of such in future. Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls. May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of Thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions, Oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.

Source: The Christian Faith of Jane Austen

And, by the way, the eight women featured in this book are as follows:

Jane Grey: The courageous Protestant martyr who held fast to her conviction that salvation is by faith alone even to the point of death.

Anne Steele: The great hymn writer whose work continues to help the church worship in song today.

Margaret Baxter: The faithful wife to pastor Richard Baxter who met persecution with grace and joy.

Esther Edwards Burr: The daughter of Jonathan Edwards whose life modeled biblical friendship.

Anne Dutton: The innovative author whose theological works left a significant literary legacy.

Ann Judson: The wife of Adoniram Judson and pioneer missionary in the American evangelical missions movement.

Sarah Edwards: The wife of Jonathan Edwards and model of sincere delight in Christ.

Jane Austen: The prolific novelist with a deep and sincere Christian faith that she expressed in her stories.

Note to Self: Live Short

Begin by reading and reflecting on Philippians 1:20-26.

Dear Self,

…Consider that God has ordered your days. He has given you a certain number of days to use for his glory and the good of those around you. What are you doing with the time you have?

Remember, we are not talking about the time you think you have, but the time you actually have. If you knew for certain that this was in fact the last day of your life, what would you do? Would you hole up in your house, kneeling, repenting for all the sin you have neglected? Would you run to every friend and relative who does not know Christ and encourage them to repent and believe the gospel?

But while today could be your last, you do not know it, so the best course of action is simply to be faithful to the things God has called you to this day, for it could be your last. Will you love your spouse? Talk with your kids? Do your best at your place of employment? Pray and seek God with earnestness and sincerity?

You see, you have to make the most, not just of the day as a whole, but of all the parts that make up that day. That is your responsibility. Live short; live with urgency. This is the natural outworking of truly embracing our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.26 “Live Short” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.89-90.

Prayers for the New School Year – Samuel Johnson

studying-libraryI have posted here before prayers appropriate for the beginning of the new school year, and with the start of our Seminary semester yesterday and the start of many Christian schools last week and this week, it it fitting to do so again.

Recently I came across a prayer of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) in the book Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer (Eerdmans, 2012). That prompted me to search for more, which I was able to find  online here.

I hope that you find these prayers to be profitable, whether you are a student or a parent, a teacher or a professor, a librarian or a laborer.

This brief one is quoted in Acceptable Words:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without whose help labour is useless, without whose light search is vain, invigorate my studies, and direct my inquiries, that I may, by due diligence and right discernment, establish myself and others in thy Holy Faith.

Take not, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit from me; let not evil thought have dominion in my mind. Let me not linger in ignorance, but enlighten and support me, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This one is titled “Before Any New Study”:

ALMIGHTY God, in whose hands are all the powers of man, who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and enquiries.

Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me. Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

And when we fail to be diligent in our tasks and studies, this daily prayer is certainly fitting (“After Time Negligently and Unprofitably Spent”) :

O LORD, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour to accomplish thy will, or to promote my own salvation.

Make me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought to be used according to thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent performance of thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Save

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?!