Reset: Relax by Reading

Reset-DMurray-2017Yes, Dr. David Murray does indeed recommend reading (daily!) as a way to relax in the next chapter of his book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Taking us into “Repair Bay 5”, Murray points to the importance of taking time to relax in order to prevent burnout in the mad rush of life we experience in our modern culture. His call is to experience the reality of God’s Word in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

But how can we experience this stillness and silence of God’s presence with so much pressure on us from work, family, and church, so many activities screaming for our attention, and such great noise and distraction from our technological world?

Murray does indeed tell us to mute our phones and device notifications, to limit our use of social media, texting, and emails, and to shut things down in the evening and weekends. But he also points us to the benefits of reading in order to experience true relaxation. Here is part of what he says:

The last daily bump I want to recommend is reading, which may sound strange given that we are trying to rest and relax the mind. There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health giving. In “How Changing Your Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, ‘Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.’

…But Grothaus’ further research revealed that such transformation through reading wasn’t weird, but was ‘the norm for people who read a lot – and one of the main benefits of reading that most people don’t know about’ (97-98).

And so Murray gives us his own reading regimen and experience:

I try to set aside thirty minutes each evening for reading non-work-related books – usually biographies, works on history or fitness, New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, and so on. It’s amazing how many fantastic books you can get through – maybe two or three a month – with just that short time every day. And for all my fellow type A’s, remember that the point is not to chalk up ‘books read’ or to use the time for sermon prep if you’re a pastor, but to relax and enjoy (p.98).

There is no question that as Christians we ought to read for a variety of reasons. But let’s not forget this one either – simply to slow down and relax. And if we are reading for the growth of our souls, for knowing and drawing near to God, then by all means let us keep our mind’s eye on Psalm 46:10.

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

Today on the RFPA Blog Rev. Ryan Barnhill had a fine post on the importance of Christians being readers, as part of the spiritual disciplines that mark the believer’s life and walk with the Lord.

After explaining what kind of reading makes for a spiritual discipline, Pastor Barnhill gives three reasons why we should read and read diligently:

Why do we read? Why do we read when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, Snapchat, and games seem so much more exciting, real life, and convenient? I provide three reasons below, readily recognizing that these reasons can be multiplied.

First, we read to sharpen our Reformed, biblical worldview: a worldview that includes doctrine, application of doctrine, and history. Do we not want to learn more about the signs of Christ’s coming, or justification by faith alone (two recent RFPA publications)? Do we not desire to evaluate world events through a Reformed, biblical lens (“All around Us” rubric in the Standard Bearer)? Do we not love our brothers and sisters overseas, longing to become better acquainted with them (recent article on Myanmar in Beacon Lights)? What do we believe? Are we anchored in it? Are we able to teach it to the generation following? Reading is crucial!

Second, and closely related to the first, is that reading is a means God uses for growth in godliness. Whatever we take in shapes our thinking. How blessed is the man, then, who enjoys a steady diet of sound, God-glorifying literature! These books and magazines edify, instruct, warn, comfort, and encourage. Reading holds an integral place in our life of sanctification.

Third, we read to become better readers of the Bible. Reading more makes us better Bible interpreters. This is not to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit, but only to say that reading helps our ability to comprehend words and thoughts, sharpens our grammatical skills, and improves our critical thinking. If only for this reason, reading is important!

You may read the rest of this blog post at the RFPA link below. And while you are reading about this spiritual discipline, check out Rev. Barnhill’s other posts on this vital subject.

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

Published in: on May 9, 2017 at 10:36 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Very Special Reformation 500th Book: Gospel Truth of Justification

The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released its latest publication – a title timed for this year’s 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century – and a very special title it is.

gospel-truth-justification-DJE-2017Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed by David J. Engelsma brings to the foreground the central truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the core doctrine rediscovered by the Protestant Reformers beginning with Martin Luther – justification by faith alone in Christ alone, wholly apart from the works of the sinner or the merits of any saint.

The publisher has this description on its website of the new title:

AD 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ. In 1517 the Reformer Martin Luther affixed the ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, the act by which Jesus Christ began his reformation of his church. Essential to this Reformation was the gospel-truth of justification by faith alone. This book on justification is intended by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and the author to celebrate that glorious work of Christ.

But the purpose is more than a celebration of the beginning of the Reformation. It is to maintain, defend, and promote the Reformation in the perilous times for the church at present. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is so fundamental to the gospel of grace that an exposition and defense of this truth are in order always. The true church of Christ in the world simply cannot keep silent about this doctrine. To keep silent about justification by faith alone would be to silence the gospel.

In a recent email announcing the book, the publisher included these pertinent words, part of the author’s “Preface”:

Many churches today proclaim the false gospel, that is no gospel, of righteousness and salvation by the works and will of the sinner (Rom. 9:16). Today the churches with the most exalted reputation for Reformation orthodoxy are helpless, apparently, before the onslaught of the federal vision.

At such a time as this, a work that echoes Luther’s “here I stand” with specific regard to the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation is not only appropriate, but necessary. Clearly, unequivocally, creedally, biblically, the gospel truth of justification by faith alone, without works—any works, all works! Only the alien, perfect work of the Son of God in our flesh, Jesus the justifying Christ of God! Received by faith alone!

Protestantism, Protestantism in North America, Protestantism worldwide, especially Reformed and Presbyterian Protestantism, again hear this gospel, believe it, confess it, and defend it!

We will be referencing this work again this year, but we make this initial notice of it for your benefit.

Add it to your “must read” Reformation books this year. Be prepared to dig deep into the heart of the gospel, the need for which now more than ever the church and true Protestants need to proclaim, defend, and develop. Here is a great place to begin.

P.S. And yes, the PRC Seminary library does have it – two copies, in fact.

Luther: Bold Reformer – Reforming Our View of God

bold-reformer-steeleIn the sixteenth century, Luther identified the areas where the church needed to be reformed. The word reformation comes from the Latin verb, reformo, which means ‘to form again, mold anew, or revive.’ In our day, there is an ongoing need for the church to be remolded and revived. There is urgent need for reformation in the church of Jesus Christ.

…Three specific areas need reformation.

First, our view of God must be reformed. We live in a culture where the doctrine of God is constantly under fire. Open theists attack God’s comprehensive foreknowledge. Modalists deny the distinctions in the Trinity and denounce the Trinity. Inclusivists reject the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. And many evangelicals embrace a vision of God that is captivated by his love but casts aside any notion of wrath or eternal judgment.

…Four strategic initiatives will help ensure our view of God is always reforming:

  1. Recover Our Vision of God’s Greatness.
  2. Recover Our Thirst for God’s holiness.
  3. Recover Our Passion for God’s Glory.
  4. Recover Our Holy Fear of God

…One way we can recover our holy fear of God is by preaching and teaching about the wrath of God. Once again, Trueman casts light on this important subject. He highlights the reluctance of our culture to acknowledge that God is holy and deserves to be feared. He adds, “‘Luther’s doctrine of justification depends upon two things: the constant preaching of the wrath of God in the face of sin; and the realization that every Christian is at once righteous and a sinner, thus needing the hammer of the law to terrify and break the sinful conscience.’ [Quoted from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R. Trueman]. Sadly, some Christians shy away from this God-centered counsel and minimize God’s wrath or even discard it all together. The net result is a devastating blow to the cause of Christ. To remove God’s wrath is tantamount to theological treason.

Our view of God must be reformed by recovering our vision of God’s greatness, recovering our thirst for God’s holiness, recovering our passion for God’s glory, and recovering our holy fear of God. A key aspect of this commitment is to warn sinners that God is angry with sin and will unleash his wrath on the unrepentant.

Read today in part of Chapter Two, “Bold Reformers Recognize the Need for Reform,” in Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther by David S. Steele (Kindle ed.).

Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (3)

listen-up-ashWe are wrapping up Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January, February, and March of this year), and have one more post to go.

As we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well.

You may recall that at the outset of this appendix section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” Having considered “dull” and “biblically inadequate”sermons, we turn to the final subset of bad sermons – “heretical” ones. Yes, Ash deals with these too, and so must we.

Ash begins by defining what a heresy is, giving us three points:

  1. “First, it is an error in something central to Christian faith and not something peripheral” (he mentions as an example not a difference in church government but one who denies Jesus as the Messiah).
  2. “Second, a person is not a heretic if they get something wrong by mistake [or weakness], and then put it right when they are corrected. They are heretics, however, if they hold obstinately to teaching which the Bible shows to be wrong”[and we would add, contrary to the historic Confessions of the church].
  3. “Third. it is only heresy when the person actively seeks to teach this error in the church. A private opinion is not heresy. The mistake of a Christian is not heresy. ..A heretic is not only a false-believer but also also a false-teacher.”

So, what is our responsibility in cases where a minister of the Word is teaching heresy? Ash’ counsel is simple and direct:

The way to listen to these sorts of sermons is to stop listening to them! That is to say, we ought to move away from that kind of church and find a church where they believe and teach the Bible faithfully. We will not look for an exciting church, where the preaching entertains; we will look for a faithful, Bible-teaching church [p.28].

I am thankful to belong to such a church and denomination. Do we appreciate the good sermons we hear from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day? Are we praying for our pastors and, specifically, for their sermon preparation? And are we praying for our listening and for that of our fellow believers?

Ash ends with a good word for all of us:

Not all poor preaching is entirely the fault of the preacher; the congregation has a vital part to play. When a congregation makes it clear that they are reluctant to hear faithful preaching, that they want the sermons to be shorter and play a more marginal role in the meeting, when they listen stony-faced and give no word of encouragement, it is very hard for even the most faithful preacher to persevere (although they ought to, as Jeremiah had to). By contrast, a congregation eager for faithful, challenging Bible preaching is much more likely to get it [p.29].

To that, let’s give a hearty “Amen.”

Boston Public Library’s ‘Car Wash’ for Books

For our “Friday Fun” item on this first Friday of May, we present this nifty carwash device for books, compliments of the Boston Public Library. The geography trivia website Atlas Obscura posted this last week (April 26, 2017), and it immediately caught my attention. What a clever invention!

Below is the introduction to this “bookwash” instrument. Be sure to catch the little video by clicking on the link below or on the image above. Quite amazing. But my manual device works fairly well top (two hands, vinegar and water mix, and paper towels). Enjoy!

Library books change hands all the time, and in the process, they end up getting pretty dirty, hence: the Boston Public Library’s book-sized “car wash,” which gets rid of dust and grime.

In a video the library recently posted to Twitter, the automated system, called a Depulvera, pulls books through a familiar looking series of stations to get their books clean. In the video, a book can be seen being pulled down the line by a conveyor system that drags it through a couple of steps, reorienting the book past a series of spinning brush bars, and finally out the other end, through a curtain of hanging plastic strips, just like in a full size car wash.

And it’s very satisfying to watch in action.

Source: The Boston Public Library Has a ‘Car Wash’ for Books – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on May 5, 2017 at 8:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

Martin Luther Documentary Official Trailer – Plus a J. Wycliffe Notice

This newly released (April 2017) special documentary film commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation focuses on the life and work of Martin Luther.

It is produced by Stephen McCaskell and makes use of prominent Reformed and Evangelical theologians and historians such as R. C. Sproul, Steven Lawson, Robert Godfrey, and Carl Trueman. The beautiful photography features the places and sites surrounding the life of Luther in Germany.

You may order a copy for viewing individually or with a group at http://www.lutherdocumentary.com or at FaithLife TV (part of Logos.com). This may be something our schools or Bible study groups would want to make use of. It is a recommended resource in this year in which we too celebrate God’s work in the great Reformation.

To view the trailer, click on the video below.

JWycliffe-BibleAnd in pre-Reformation church history news for this date, you should know that John Wycliffe, the “morning-star of the Reformation,” was condemned for his “heretical” views by the Council of Constance on May 4, 1415.

History Today carries the brief story, a part of which email notice I quote:

Meanwhile, in 1415, the Council had considered, and condemned as heretical, the teachings of the Prague priest Jan Hus and he was burned at the stake in Constance. It also condemned an Englishman whose writings had influenced Hus.

Fortunately for the Englishman, he was dead. Thought to have been born in the mid-1320s, John Wycliffe or Wyclif (there are several other spellings) was a Yorkshireman, who studied at Oxford University, became a fellow of Merton College and went on to win a brilliant reputation as an expert on theology. Ordained priest in 1351, he was vicar of Fylingham, a Lincolnshire village, from the 1360s, but spent most of his time at Oxford. In 1374 he was made rector of Lutterworth in Leicestershire.

By that time Wycliffe had developed startlingly unorthodox opinions, which were condemned by Pope Gregory VII in 1377. He had come to regard the scriptures as the only reliable guide to the truth about God and maintained that all Christians should rely on the Bible rather than the unreliable and frequently self-serving teachings of popes and clerics. He said that there was no scriptural justification for the papacy’s existence and attacked the riches and power that popes and the Church as a whole had acquired. He disapproved of clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to saints. He thought the monasteries were corrupt and the immorality with which many clerics often behaved invalidated the sacraments they conducted. If clerics were accused of crime, they should be tried in the ordinary lay courts, not in their special ecclesiastical tribunals.

For the rest of this story, visit the History Today link above.

Reset: Take Care of Your Body!

Reset-DMurray-2017We have been pointing you to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017). It is written with men especially in view, men in danger of burnout, as the title intimates.

After chapters on doing a “reality check” (repair bay 1) and performing a “review” of our lives (repair bay 2), Murray takes us into repair bay 3, where he taught us the practical importance of sleep (“Rest).

Now in chapter four he has us take the “car” of our lives and pull into “repair bay 4”, which he titles “Re-create.” This is a chapter about taking care of our bodies, not now in terms of sleep and rest but in terms of proper diet and exercise. But he starts once again with a “body theology,” which is a brief exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Part of that includes this:

Your body is for the Lord (vv.13-14). The apostle replaces a false slogan the Corinthians were using to abuse their bodies – ‘foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods’ – with a true slogan to bless their bodies: ‘The body is… for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.’

‘The body is for the Lord.’ God has given each of us a body to give back to him. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to anybody and everybody in immoral sexual relations. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to overwork or sloth. He gave us a body to give back to him. The body is for the Lord.

‘The Lord is for the body.’ He made it , cares for it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. He even took on a body, suffered in a body, and rose again in a body. he has a body to this day. The Lord is for the body. This is not of minor importance. Our future resurrection shows how much honor God puts on the body and how much we should honor in the meantime what he will honor for all time [p.75].

And then Murray goes on to apply this “body theology” with subjects such as “stand up (on posture and care for our backs),” “exercise,” and “manual labor.” Let me take a snippet from the section on exercise for our benefit, men.

Moderate physical exercise helps to expel unhelpful chemicals from our systems and stimulates the production of helpful chemicals. It strengthens not just the body but also the brain. Research has shown that walking just two miles a day reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia by 60 percent. And aside from the long-term benefits, exercise triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippcampus and the release of neurotrophic growth factors – a kind of mental fertilizer that helps the brain grow, maintain new connections, and stay healthy. Exercise and proper rest patterns generate about a 20 percent energy in crease in an average day, while exercising three to five times a week is about as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression [pp.78-79].

Good thoughts for us in the middle of the work week. Life is busy. Work is demanding. Time is elusive. But our bodies are the Lord’s, bought with a precious price. What are we doing to care for them the way He wills?

Comfort in God’s Sure Covenant

evening-thoughts-winslowOn this sobering Monday, reflecting on the brevity of life and our hope in Christ, the evening meditation for April 30 from Octavius Winslow’s book Evening Thoughts is certainly fitting.

Taking his thoughts from the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 23:5, Winslow wrote:

God sometimes comforts the cast-down, by bringing them to rest in the fullness and stability of the covenant.

…What a cloud was now resting upon his [David’s] tabernacle! How bitter were the waters he was now drinking! But see how God comforted him. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”

Believer, this covenant is equally yours. You have the same individual interest in it that David had. The ‘sure mercies’ of the true David are yours, as they were those of ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ In the midst of domestic trial – family changes – thwarted designs – blighted hopes, God has made with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator, ‘an everlasting covenant.’

In it your whole history is recorded by Him who knows the end from the beginning. All the events of your life, all the steps of your journey, all your sorrows and your comforts, all your needs and your supplies, are ordained in that covenant which is ‘ordered in all things.’ While mutability is a constituent element of everything temporal – ‘passing away’ written upon life’s loveliest landscape, and upon the heart’s dearest treasure – this, and this alone, remains sure and unchangeable.

Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your sheet-anchor in the storm, the bow in your cloud, upon which God invites you to fix your believing eyes; yes, all your salvation and all your desire, though He makes not domestic comfort to grow.

Note: to find this book in print, go here or here; to find it online, go here.

World-Tilting Gospel: God’s Grand Salvation Plan Accomplished by Christ

world-tilting-gospel-phillipsThe truth of God’s saving plan and its culmination in Christ makes us world-tilters because we now know where our rescue comes from. What did mankind contribute to this operation? What was our part?

We contributed:

  • The traitor
  • The corrupt politicians
  • The religious hypocrites
  • The lynch mob
  • The soldiers
  • The whips
  • The thorns
  • The cross
  • The nails
    …and, most especially…
  • The sins under the burden of which Christ groaned, suffered, bled and died

So we know that the world is wrong in looking for deliverance within its own corrupt and deceitful heart. We know that the world is wrong in whistling past the graveyard, kidding itself that sin is not a big issue to God. The world is equally wrong to deny God, or to seek Him within or in nature.

We know that God is transcendent and holy. And we know that He has launched one and only one rescue operation. We know that the plan was laid in eternity. And we know that it was executed by the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that He accomplished what we could not.

But too much of the church is wrong, too. Those parts of the church that sideline Christ’s saving work, His Gospel, this age-spanning rescue plan of God, are terribly wrong. …Eager to be accepted by the world, they offer the world what the world wants on the world’s terms with just a light sprinkling of God-dust.

Given that Christ and His cross are central to God, they must be central to the church of God as well. Given that God pivots everything on the person and work of Christ, the church of Christ should do the same in its preaching, thinking, worship, and practice.

To put it bluntly: If we think we have something better to offer, then we think we know something God doesn’t know.

Taken from Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel; Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight (Kregel, 2011), Chapter 6, “God’s Rescue Operation Executed” (Kindle version), which I read tonight. I simply had to share this end-of-chapter quote with you on this Sunday night.

Are we truly thankful for this world-tilting gospel of our sovereign God?! Let it be plain in all we say and do as those redeemed by the Lamb’s precious blood.