What’s Your Mission in Life? God Has Already Created It – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanWith chapter eleven of What’s Best Next, Matt Perman begins the third section of his book on “gospel-driven productivity.” This section is the “define” part, where Perman says that if being productive is knowing what’s important and doing it next, we have to define what is most important in life.

And that’s where having a personal mission statement is vital, he says. In the eleventh chapter, “What’s Your Mission? How Not to Waste Your Life”, Perman lays out the details of this concept. At the beginning he sets forth “four principles for creating mission statements that work” (p.153).

I appreciated what he had to say under the second principle, “base your mission on the actual purpose of life.” Here is part of it:

God has stated the purpose of life throughout the Bible in dozens of different ways. The words God uses (and that you can use) to describe it can differ, but the essence is always the same. The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him, and do this in community with others through Jesus Christ.

That’s the ultimate purpose of life, both now and forever.

…One of the greatest statements of our mission in the Bible is when Paul says that his aim is always that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil.1:20-21). When Paul says ‘to me to live is Christ,’ he means, ‘Christ is my main end in life. I belong to him, and everything I do is for him. Nothing else matters without him (cf. Phil.3:8-14)….

Echoing this again in Romans 14:7-8, Paul states his and our purpose this way: ‘For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’

Outside the Bible, perhaps Jonathan Edwards has captured this best: “Christianity requires that we should make God and Christ our main end; and all Christians, so far as they live like Christians, live so that ‘for them to live is Christ.’

Note that your mission is personal, not impersonal. It is not just principle-centered; it is God-centered. God – Jesus- is a person. Your mission is to live unto him – and die unto him. To serve him, love him, know him, reflect him – and do this in community with his people, with an outward focus that seeks to serve the world for its good (pp154-55).

The Prayers of J. Calvin (21)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahOn this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 28), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his twentieth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:10-16, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:14, “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.”

Here is part of his application of this passage to the church in his day and to us:

This passage ought to be carefully observed by us, lest by our ingratitude we shall so provoke God’s wrath against us, as that his word, which is destined for our food, shall be turned to a fire to us. For why has God appointed the ministers of his gospel, except to invite us to become partakers of his salvation, and thus sweetly to restore and refresh our souls?

And thus the word of God is to us like water to revive our hearts: it is also a fire, but for our good, a cleansing, and not a consuming fire; but it we obstinately reject this fire, it will surely turn to answer another end, even to devour us, and wholly to consume us (p.284).

And his closing prayer for this lecture is as follows:

Grant, Almighty God, that though thou mightest justly condemn us at this day for the gross and wicked impiety, which thou didst formerly condemn by the mouth of thy Prophet in thine ancient people, – O grant, that we may not proceed in our obstinacy, but learn with pliable minds, and in true docility of heart, to submit to thy word, so that it may not turn to our ruin, but that we may by experience find it to be appointed for our salvation, so that being inflamed with a desire for true religion,and also cleansed from the filth of depraved affections and of carnal lusts, we may devote ourselves wholly to thy service, until having put off the flesh and all its filth, we shall at length attain to that perfect purity, which i set before us in thy gospel, and be made partakers of thy eternal glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen

The Mercy of Hearing God’s Voice – A.Mohler

deuteronomy-6-4-5This morning before our worship today I post some thoughts of Dr. Al Mohler on passages in Deuteronomy emphasizing how Israel heard the voice of God when He delivered the law to them through Moses on Mt.Horeb.

Our men’s Monday night Bible study has started studying the book of Deuteronomy and in looking for a new Journal for our Seminary library, I discovered that the December 2014 issue of the Southern Baptist Theological Journal (the Seminary of which Mohler is president) is entirely devoted to this OT book.

Mohler’s fine article is titled “Has Any People Heard the Voice of God Speaking… And Survived?”, a reference to Deut.4:33. In this first part that I quote, Mohler has referenced verses 11-13 of that chapter. And he writes concerning this:

As will be made clear in the Second Commandment – this is not a God who is seen, but a God who is heard. The contrast with the idols is very clear – the idols are seen, but they do not speak. The one true and living God is not seen, but he is heard. The contrast is intentional, graphic, and clear – we speak because we have heard. And the voice of God is not something Israel deserved, nor do we. It is sheer mercy.

We have no right to hear God speak. We have no call upon his voice. We have no right to demand that he would speak. We are accustomed to pointing to the cross of Christ and glorying in the cross of Christ – as we ought always to do – and saying of the cross, ‘There is mercy!’ But at Mount Horeb, there too was mercy! There is mercy when God speaks. This is the mercy of God allowing us to hear his voice (p.10).

As he further explains this passage, Mohler makes eight (8) points of application, the last of which is “If God has spoken, we must witness.” I appreciated his final comments under this – fitting for us today as we will also hear God’s voice – and the church will proclaim that Word that she has heard.

The difference for the church is that we understand what it means to gather together as the ones who by the grace and mercy of God have heard. Under the authority of the Word we gather. We are not making this up as we go along. Our task is not to go figure out what to teach. Our task is not to figure out where to find meaning in life. It is to be reminded continually that we have heard the voice of God speaking from the fire and have survived, and thus we teach.

This is the mercy of God, to hear and yet survive. It is the mercy by which we live every day and experience every moment and evaluate every truth claim and judge every worldview and preach every sermon. We work and we live under that mercy. I cannot help connecting Deuteronomy 4 with Hebrews 1. The experience of Israel – hearing the Lord God speak from the midst of the fire and yet surviving – ties in so beautifully with the prologue of the book of Hebrews: ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’ (vv.1-2).

We are here because God has spoken, not only in the fire, but also in the Son – in whose name we gather as the church and in whose name we serve. The voice at Horeb points to its ultimate fulfillment in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate. For beyond the miracle of Israel hearing God’s voice and surviving, we can now know the Word of God made flesh and be saved (p.17).

Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness – J.Walker

Passing-Through-JWalker-2015Such is the title of a brand new book published by Reformation Heritage Books, which was sent to me for review. The author is Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, who also authored the popular book A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ. 

In Passing Through, Walker attempts to answer the question of the Christian’s relationship to the world. After establishing the significance of the question and the contemporary danger of worldliness, he points out that we can be guided by Christ’s prayer in John 17:14-19 (which see here). As he opens up this passage, he starts by making this important point:

Here in John 17 the Lord speaks of Christians as those who, having been given His world, now sustain a relationship to the world that is conditioned by their likeness to and connection with Him: ‘They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ But notice further that the Lord does not pray that the world would be taken away or that we would be taken out of the world. Instead He pleads that we would be protected and preserved from the evil one as we make our way in the world. Our relationship to the world is conditioned by and patterned after His own. So the Savior prays that we would be holy in this world – living distinctively and increasingly as those who belong to and are set apart by and for God – under the influence of the truth of God. He desires that we should conduct ourselves in accordance with the purposes for which we have been sent in just the same way that the Son was sent by the Father. To this end and for this purpose, on our behalf the Son sanctified Himself: He consecrated Himself entirely and without reserve, committing Himself entirely to His duty before God in such a way as to secure the same end for His people (p.3).

I have been doing some more reading in the book and am being edified by Walker’s presentation of the life of the Christin as a pilgrim. By the way, Walker derives his title from a poem by Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), which I also post here:

Passing Through

I walk as one who knows that he is treading
A stranger soil;
As one round whom a serpent-world is spreading
Its subtle coil.

I walk as one but yesterday delivered
From a sharp chain;
Who trembles lest the bond so newly severed
Be bound again.

I walk as one who feels that he is breathing
Ungenial air;
For whom as wiles, the tempter still is wreathing
The bright and fair.

My steps, I know, are on the plains of danger,
For sin is near;
But looking up, I pass along, a stranger,
In haste and fear.

This earth has lost its power to drag me downward;
Its spell is gone;
My course is now right upward, and right onward,
To yonder throne.

Hour after hour of time’s dark night is stealing
In gloom away;
Speed thy fair dawn of light, and joy, and healing,
Thou Star of day!

For thee its God, its King, the long-rejected,
Earth groans and cries;
For thee the long-beloved, the long-expected,
Thy bride still sighs!

On the RHB website is posted the Table of contents, which I give you here so that you can see how Walker handles the subject.

Table of Contents:

  1. A Way in the World
  2. Strangers and Pilgrims
  3. Understand the Environment
  4. Know the Enemy
  5. Fight the Battles
  6. Pursue the Mission
  7. Respect the Authorities
  8. Alleviate the Suffering
  9. Appreciate the Beauty
  10. Anticipate the Destiny
  11. Cultivate the Identity
  12. Serve the King

If any of our readers wish to review the book in more detail for the Standard Bearer, contact me and the book is yours.

True Religion Before God and the Father – H.Hanko

faithmadeperfect-hhanko-2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has recently published a new commentary on the epistle of James by Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary). It carries the title Faith Made Perfect: Commentary on James (RFPA, 2015).

Doing some reading in it this morning led me to these two quotes that are also fitting for us on this Lord’s Day when we are called to practice “true religion and undefiled before God and the Father” (1:27). And that is contrast to a religion that is “vain” because we do not bridle our tongues (1:26).

Here is some of what Prof.Hanko says about these verses in the end of James 1:

The word translated as ‘vain’ [1:26] is not kenos, which means empty, but mataios, which means aimless. It refers to a religion that is without purpose, without fruit, without any goal, when the goal of one’s life ought to be the glory of God and praise to him who is alone worthy of it. Everything he does in the practice of religion is purposeless. His singing in church, his giving alms, and his careful attention to religious practices – all are without purpose, for they are only outward. God is not praised; nothing that man does is of any benefit to himself or to God, all because he does not know how to bridle his tongue. That is a devastating indictment (pp.78-79).

And then on the next verse, v.27, Hanko has this to say:

The addition of ‘Father’ is remarkable. It immediately puts all worship in the context of a father-son relationship. Worship is family fellowship – fellowship between a Father and his children. It is a relationship of love and mutual joy. It is a confession, with all that is implied, that worship is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children. It is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children on earth. Thus true religion before the Father is also religion that preserves the proper ‘space’ between the almighty and eternal God and creatures who are very, very sinful children. True religion is praise to God for his love for us in Christ (pp.79-80)

Prayer in Times of Great Peril – Valley of Vision

Once again the Lord’s sovereign hand has struck some of our families and congregations with the sudden death of a loved one, shaking us to the core, humbling us, teaching us, driving us to Him through Jesus Christ, our only Help and Hope.

In light of this I post this prayer titled “Peril” from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975). You will see that it is a cry for help raised “out of the depths” (Psalm 130:1), and yet a prayer of faith, with the child of God still clinging to the Lord of mercy.

At the end is a video recording of this prayer which may also be listened to and prayed in this way.

Peril – The Valley of Vision

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali –
    ‘satisfied with favour’ –
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

Character and Productivity – Matt Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanA while back now, I read chapter 9 of What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), where author Matt Perman writes about the importance of character (“character ethic”) for productivity in our lives as Christian laborers.

The chapter is titled “The Role of Prayer and Scripture in Our Productivity”, and here are a few quotes:

How does character lead to productivity? First, as we’ve seen, character is itself at the heart of what God requires and is the essence of the productive life. The greatest success is to be a person of character – someone who walks with God, in Christ, and seeks to live this out every day by doing justice and loving mercy (Mic.6:8). Second, character leads to making the most off our time in the decisions of everyday life because character is usually the source of our ability to determine what’s best next (p.125).

…This means that the Scriptures are at the foundation of our productivity because the Scriptures are one of the chief means God brings about this transformation and builds our character. in Psalm 1, for example, the reason this person flourishes in his character and prospers in all he does (v.3) is because ‘his delight is in the law of the Lord,  and on his law he meditates day and night’ (v.2). Related to this, prayer is also foundational to our productivity because in prayer we call on God for help and strength (notice how Jesus connects prayer, the Scriptures, and productivity in John 14:7-8).

This is not moralism. The essence of character is walking with God. The essence, the heart, and the basic dimension of the Christian life is living in fellowship with God, and central to that is prayer and the Scriptures (p.127).

…The other component of character , which flows from love of God, is love of others. This manifests itself in a tendency to think of others, seek their welfare, and put them first. …That’s why character issues in productivity: it is of the essence of Christlike character to always be thinking of others – which, as we have seen, is the guiding principle of our productivity (p.128).

Applying these things to ourselves, may we practice true productivity our work this week, rooted in a Christlike character, using the means God has given us to grow that character – His Word and prayer.

How Do I Apply Doctrine Personally? – Daniel Doriani

How Do I Apply Doctrine Personally? by Daniel Doriani | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT May 2015Sunday I finished reading the last articles in the May Tabletalk, including this one by Dr.Daniel Doriani, professor of theology at Covenant Seminary (PCA) in St.Louis.

As the entire issue focuses on the importance of doctrine to the believer, Doriani addresses the importance of applying biblical, Reformed doctrine to ourselves personally. At the end of his article he refers to Calvin and how he applies doctrine in his Institutes. This is a model for us, he says.

I agree, and think you will find plenty to ponder as Calvin shows us how to apply the truth of God’s providence to our daily lives.

This is how Doriani ends his article:

While it’s easy to name one or two implications of almost any doctrine, many doctrines invite numerous applications. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin shows this as he explores the implication of God’s providence for many pages. Let’s consider five of these implications. First, those who know God’s power “safely rest in the protection” of the one who controls all the harmful things we fear (Institutes 1.16.3). Second, God’s providence requires humility, for we should not call God to account for His actions, but “reverence his secret judgments” and “consider his will the truly just cause of all things” (1.17.1–2). Third, the godly will neither murmur against God’s will nor fatalistically give up planning. We order our affairs, knowing God employs our means to effect His providence. We submit our plans to His will (1.17.1–5). Fourth, rather than straining against God’s providence, we find solace in it, since “the Lord watches over the ways of the saints with … great diligence.” Therefore, we must enjoy “patience in adversity and … freeom from worry about the future” (1.17.6–7). Finally, the doctrine of providence helps us in our adversities. Remembering that God willed them, we have an “effective remedy for anger and impatience.” He even permits “the acts of our enemies” (1.16.8). Yes, dangers threaten at every turn, but instead of letting them terrify us, we trust that God lets nothing touch us unless He has ordained it.

Calvin exemplifies the wise practice of theologians who join doctrine, piety, and practice. They meditate on doctrine, asking, “Who needs this truth? How does it warn, rebuke, call to repentance? How does it offer hope, direction, redemption, and healing?” If we take our time with these questions, we will find doctrine to be most practical.

“Faith in Christ does not relieve anyone of hard work….” -G.Keddie

TEccles-GKeddieonight our men’s Bible study group meets to discuss Ecclesiastes 11. In preparing yesterday, I read these good words from the pen of Gordon Keddie, found in his commentary on this book titled Looking for the Good Life (P&R, 1991). They make for great food for thought as we begin the work-week.

Faith in Christ does not relieve anyone of hard work; it only makes it possible to get on with the job in a joyful spirit that expects God’s blessing, whatever the immediate outcome may be.

…Qoheleth’s counsel is to ‘sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle’ (11:6a). Get busy! Redeem the time! Diversify your work investment by using morning and evening, even for different goals. The more doubts you have about the general situation, the more diligent you should be to get to work for the Lord in every aspect of life. If the times seems meaningless, you are called by God to bring meaning to them! If you ‘sow for yourselves righteousness,’ then you will ‘reap the fruit of [God’s] unfailing love (Hos.10:12). God has promised that ‘at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Gal.6:9). Paul’s encouragement to Timothy the preacher – ‘be prepared in season and out of season’ (Ii Tim.4:2) – has its application to us all. Especially at times when we don’t feel like putting in the effort (‘out of season’), we should be most ceaselessly active in living life for the Lord.

The reason for such driving diligence is precisely because ‘you do not know which will succeed, whether this [sowing seed] or that [your evening work], or whether both will do equally well (11:6b). The point is a positive one, not a counsel of despair. We may not know the future, but God does. Our job is to work in faith and leave the rest to God. And that is where we can have a confidence that reinforces our commitment and uplifts our hearts. Our confidence is not, please note, in some mystical assurance of success in all we do; it is rather a confidence in the Lord himself and an assurance, by faith, that whatever happens, there will be a blessing in it for us. ‘Those who sow in tears will read with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him (Ps.126:5-6).

“Sunday is ‘Father’s Day,’ and we have an appointment to meet Him.” -S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonFittingly, the final chapter in Sinclair Ferguson’s fine book In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust, 2007) is titled “Sabbath Rest”. In it he traces the four stages the sabbath has for man in the history of redemption, following the Word of God in Hebrews 4 (creation, fall, salvation, glory).

On this Sunday-sabbath night, I post Ferguson’s treatment of that last stage, realizing it also ties in well with my previous quote today. May these words also serve to strengthen us to run our race in this week, with all its toils and troubles, knowing the perfect rest that awaits us.

But we have not yet reached the goal. We still struggle to rest from the labors of the flesh; we still must ‘be diligent to enter that rest’ (Heb.4:11). That is why the weekly nature of the Sabbath continues as a reminder that we are not yet home with the Father. And since this rest is ours only through union with Christ in His death and resurrection, our struggles to refuse the old life and enjoy the new will continue until glory.

But one may ask, ‘How does this impact my Sundays as a Christian?’

For one thing, this view of the Sabbath helps us regulate the whole week. Sunday is ‘Father’s Day,’ and we have an appointment to meet Him. The child who asks, ‘How short can the meeting be?’ has a dysfunctional relationship problem – not an intellectual, theological problem. Something is amiss in his fellowship with God.

This view of the Lord’s Day also usually helps us deal in a non-legalistic way with the questions that ask, ‘Is it ok to do_____ on Sunday since I don’t have any time to do it in the rest of the week? If this is the way we phrase the question, the problem is not how we use Sunday, it is how we are misusing the rest of the week.

This view of the Lord’s Day also helps us see it as a foretaste of heaven. And it teaches us that if the worship, fellowship, ministry, and outreach of our churches do not give expression to that, something is seriously amiss.

Hebrews teaches us that eternal glory is a Sabbath rest. Every day, all day, will be ‘Father’s Day’! Thus, if here and now we learn the pleasures of a God-given weekly rhythm, it will no longer seem strange to us that the eternal glory can be described as a prolonged Sabbath! (Kindle ed.)

Published in: on May 31, 2015 at 11:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

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