Why Do Our Best Next? Because Our Work is Our Vocation – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanAs we continue to make our way through Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), let’s remember that we are in the third main section of the book, where the author is helping us define what is most important to do, since productivity is knowing what’s most important to do and then doing it with all our might to the best of our ability.

Chapter thirteen – “Clarifying Your Roles” – is another step in this process of defining what’s important, and at the beginning, Perman reminds us of an important truth that also came out of the Reformation of the 16th century – that all lawful work is a vocation, that is, a calling from God. It is worth hearing what he has to say about this vital point:

     Talking about roles puts us right at the heart of the Christian doctrine of vocation. The Bible teaches that our roles are not just areas of responsibility, but callings. Our roles are each callings given to us by God and through which we serve God and others.

This applies to all of us, and to every area of our lives, which means four things [I abbreviate for sake of space.].

First, all Christians have a calling – not just pastors and missionaries. Whatever you are doing in life, you are not there by accident. Jesus has placed you there (1 Cor.7:17-24), and you are able to carry out your role unto him and for his glory (Eph.6:6-8). Here’s how Luther puts it:

A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has his work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every one by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all members of the body serve one another.

     Second, it means not only that all Christians have a calling but also that every area of our lives is a calling. Our callings are not just limited to what we do as a job. All areas of our lives are a calling – husband, wife, child, friend, community member, parent, and so forth – and thus are to be lived before God and unto God.

Third, it means that all of our jobs and every area of our life has a dignity and meaning that gives great significance to it. Because of the priesthood of all believers, we can do all things unto the glory of God….

Fourth, it means that each role is a stewardship for whcih we are ultimately responsible not to other people, but to God himself. …This gives not only significance to what we do, but great weight to what we are doing (p.180).

Now you can see again why Perman refers to knowing and doing our best as “gospel-driven productivity.”

Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits – Justin Taylor

Source: Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits by Justin Taylor | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

TTCover-Sept-2015The above-linked article is the third featured one in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, which is on the theme of Study Bibles. In this article Justin Taylor shows us how a good study Bible functions as a useful “theological tool kit”. At the end, he also gives us some practical pointers on how to use a study Bible well.

This too is a profitable article in learning whether you want to use a study Bible or not, and if so, how to use it best. I give you the first part of Taylor’s article and encourage you to use the link to read the rest.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend and pastoral protégé Timothy, he gave him a clear command about how to handle the Scriptures: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). We may draw several implications from this brief exhortation. First, handling God’s Word takes effort and skill. Timothy is to be a “worker,” doing his “best”—that is, striving by the Spirit to deploy careful excellence—as he undertakes this sacred task. Second, though Timothy is to interpret Scripture for himself and to serve others—so that he can know the truth and can teach it faithfully to others—interpretation is ultimately done in the presence of God and for the glory of God. It is before the Sovereign Author that our interpretations stand or fall. Third, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle God’s Word. Paul encourages Timothy to interpret “rightly” so as to avoid being “ashamed.”

Study Bibles can be a gift from God to help us understand His Word rightly and to plumb its depths. They can give us guidance in understanding history, practicing exegesis, and making theological application. I will explore these one at a time, quoting from the ESV Study Bible to illustrate—not because it’s the only good study Bible, but because it’s the one I know best.

And a little further into his article Taylor adds this specifically about how a good study Bible assists us theologically:

A good study Bible can help us become better theologians. First, it can show us how theology is derived from Scripture. For example, a note on John 1:1 will explain that this verse contains “the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed.”

Second, a good study Bible can help you avoid theological misinterpretation. When Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation,” the ESV Study Bible note helps us understand what this is and is not saying:

It would be wrong to think in physical terms here, as if Paul were asserting that the Son had a physical origin or was somehow created (the classic Arian heresy) rather than existing eternally as the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. What Paul had in mind was the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).

Third, many study Bibles contain theological articles that go into greater depth on theological truths of the faith. All of these tools can be a great aid in helping us become better theologians.

The Prayers of J. Calvin (23)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahOn this Lord’s Day 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 August 9), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Today we post a brief section from his twenty-second lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:25-31, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 25: “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.”

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

…We throw heaven and earth into confusion by our sins. For were we in right order as to our obedience to God, doubtless all the elements [of creation] would be conformable, and we should thus observe in the world an angelic harmony. But as our lusts tumultuate against God; nay, as we stir up war daily, and provoke him by our pride, perverseness, and obstinacy, it must needs be, that all things, above and below, should be in disorder, that the heavens should at one time appear cloudy, and that continuous rains should at another time destroy the produce of the earth, and that nothing should be unmixed and unstained in the world. This confusion then, in all the elements, is to be ascribed to our sins: and this is what is meant by the Prophet. Though indeed the reproof was then addressed to the Jews, we may yet gather hence a lesson of general instruction (p.301).

And here is the prayer of Calvin that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that since we have been hitherto extremely deaf to thy many exhortations, and also to those threatenings by which thou hast sharply stimulated us to repentance, – O grant, that this perverseness may not always remain in us, but that we may at length submit to thee, not only for a short time, but continually, so that we may to the end devote ourselves wholly to thee, and thus glorify thy name, that we may at last become partakers of that glory, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. – Amen (p.312).

Glory and Praise – in Poem and Song

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this Saturday night, still full of blessing from our two end-of-year public Hope Heralds’ concerts in the Grand Rapids, MI area in this past week (First CRC, Jenison, MI last Sunday and St. Adalbert’s Basilica last night), I post first of all this beautiful poem from the book Prayers of the Reformers (edited by C.Manschreck, published by Muhlenberg Press, 1958).

Glory and praise

All glory be to God on high,
Who hath our race befriended!
To us no harm shall now come nigh,
The strife at last has ended;
God showeth His good will to men,
And peace shall reign on earth again;
O thank Him for His goodness.

We praise, we worship Thee, we trust,
And give Thee thanks for ever,
O Father, that Thy rule is just,
And wise, and changes never;
Thy boundless power o’er all things reigns,
Thou dost whate’er Thy will ordains:
Well for us that Thou rulest!

O Jesus Christ, our God and Lord,
Son of Thy Heavenly Father,
O Thou Who hast our peace restored
And the lost sheep dost gather,
Thou Lamb of God, to Thee on high,
From out our depths, we sinners cry:
Have mercy on us, Jesus!

O Holy Ghost, Thou precious Gift,
Thou Comforter unfailing,
O’er Satan’s snares our souls uplift,
And let Thy power, availing,
Avert our woes and calm our dread;
For us the Saviour’s Blood was shed:
We trust in Thee to save us!
Nikolaus Decius, 1526

And with that I give you two videos from our recent concerts – “God is Gone Up with a Shout” from First CRC and “How Great Thou Art” from St.Adalbert’s.

Published in: on September 19, 2015 at 10:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Funny Friday PRC Fish Story – Rev.H. Hoeksema and D.Feenstra

Recently, through a widow in his congregation, the pastor of our Hope PRC in Redlands, CA passed along a funny fish story involving Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Mr. Donald Feenstra (now in glory) back in 1956. Though it partly belongs to our Thursday PRC archives feature, today we make it part of our “Friday fun.”

First, here is the background to the letter of Rev.H. Hoeksema that appears below (from Don’s widow, Mrs. Janice Feenstra):

Rev. H[oeksema] was visiting here with his wife, and Donald said he would catch some trout for their dinner.  He couldn’t catch any that day, and they had to leave. So after they were back in Michigan Donald bought a can of sardines, took off the label, and made his own label saying it was a can of trout. He sent it by mail to Rev. and Mrs. Hoeksema. That’s what the letter was about. It shows his (their) sense of humor. Donald was 18 in 1956….

That mailed can of “trout” to Rev.Hoeksema received this great reply by way of letter – posted here (click on it to enlarge):


Published in: on September 18, 2015 at 6:24 AM  Leave a Comment  

Books That Influenced Abraham Lincoln | The Art of Manliness

While many of America’s presidents came from prominent, educated homes, one of our most famous — Abraham Lincoln — did not. So he became consummate autodidact.

Source: Books That Influenced Abraham Lincoln | The Art of Manliness

ALincoln-1It has been sometime since we last brought your attention to this fascinating series from “The Art of Manliness.” So on this Thursday morning we point you to the latest installment – on the reading habits and library of Abraham Lincoln.

Below are the opening paragraphs of the article; for the rest, visit the AOM link above.

Welcome back to our series on the libraries of great men. The eminent men of history were often voracious readers and their own philosophy represents a distillation of all the great works they fed into their minds. This series seeks to trace the stream of their thinking back to the source. For, as David Leach, a now retired business executive put it: “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors.”

While many of America’s presidents came from prominent, educated homes, one of our most famous — Abraham Lincoln — did not. Growing up in the backwoods of Kentucky and then Indiana, Lincoln rarely enjoyed the privilege of full-time schooling. His formal education, in his own words, came “by littles,” “did not amount to one year,” and was thoroughly “defective.”

And yet Honest Abe rose in society to become a shop owner, lawyer, and of course, President of the United States. How did he do this without much in the way of formal education?

He taught himself, becoming the consummate autodidact.

2015 Seminary Convocation and Open House – Updated!

Same sunrise looking to the west over the Seminary

*Note: The 2015 PRC Seminary Convocation is now history, but you may find updated news and pictures at this link to a news item on the PRC website.

Wednesday, September 16 is the evening for the PR Seminary Convocation at 7:30 PM in Southwest PRC (Wyoming, MI).

Prof. R. Cammenga will be speaking on: “The Calling of the Protestant Reformed Seminary: The Training of Shepherds.” The “Voices of Victory” (male quartet) will provide special music. And Prof.R. Dykstra (rector) will introduce the twelve students.

Also, be sure to join faculty, students, and staff at the Seminary afterwards (just up the hill from SWPRC!), as there will be an Open House at the building (enter the new driveway off Ivanrest and Scenic River, just south of the old driveway). Come and tour the facilities, talk with the professors and students, and take in special displays of items from the PRC archives, including Seminary.

All are invited to attend. Your presence and support are a great encouragement to the Seminary. We hope to see you there!

PRC Seminary Faculty and Students - Sept. 2015

PRC Seminary Faculty and Students – Sept. 2015

Published in: on September 16, 2015 at 6:34 AM  Leave a Comment  

New Book on J.I. Packer and the Christian Life – S.Storms

Packer-on-Chrlife-Storms-2015Crossway has a fine series of books being published called “Theologians on the Christian Life,” edited by Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor. I have referenced others here before (e.g., Luther on the Christian Life by C. Trueman); today I call attention to the latest offering: Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit, written by Sam Storms (2015).

The publisher has this brief summary of the book on its website:

J. I. Packer is widely recognized as a pillar of 20th-century evangelicalism and has had a profound impact on millions of Christians living today. Now in his late eighties, Packer still exerts an enormous influence on pastors and laypeople around the world through his many books, articles, and recorded lectures—works that overflow with spiritual wisdom related to the Christian life. In this soul-stirring book, well-known pastor Sam Storms explores Packer’s legacy and profound insights into prayer, Bible study, the sovereignty of God, the Christian’s fight against sin, and more, offering readers the chance to learn from a true evangelical titan.

I started browsing and reading the book this past weekend and found the content a delight as well as edifying, not least because I have enjoyed J.I. Packer’s writings for some time. Storm handles Packer’s voluminous writings with ease and clarity, often quoting him at length – a wise and profitable thing to do!

To give you an idea of the material covered by Storms in this work, here is the table of contents as provided by Crossway:

  1. Packer the Person: A Puritan, Theological Exegete, and Latter-Day Catechist
  2. The Central Reference Point for Christian Living: Atonement
  3. Authority for Christian Living: The Role of the Bible
  4. The Shape of Christian Living: What Is Holiness?
  5. The Process of Christian Living: The Meaning and Means of Sanctification
  6. The Struggle of Christian Living: The Battle with Indwelling Sin (Romans 7)
  7. The Catalyst for Christian Living: The Person of the Holy Spirit
  8. Power for Christian Living: The Necessity of Prayer
  9. Guidance in Christian Living: Discerning the Will of God
  10. The Cauldron of Christian Living: The Inevitability of Suffering
  11. The Hub of Christian Living: Theocentricity
  12. The Conclusion of Christian Living: How to End Well

Appendix: Additional Exegetical and Theological Evidence for Seeing the Man of Romans 7 as a Christian

To give you a little taste of this work and its content, I provide these quotes from Packer himself:

If it is right for man to have the glory of God as his goal, can it be wrong for God to have the same goal? If man can have no higher purpose than God’s glory, how can God? If it is wrong for man to seek a lesser end than this, it would be wrong for God, too. The reason it cannot be right for man to live for himself, as if he were God, is because he is not God. However, ir cannot be wrong for God to seek his won glory, simply because he is God. Those who insist that God should not seek his own glory in all things are really asking that he cease to be God. And there is no greater blasphemy than to will God out of existence (p.27 – from Packer’s Hot Tub Religion, Tyndale, 1987).

You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank not Him but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to…. You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved, and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refused to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think of your conversion and give thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace (p.192 – from Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, InterVarsity, 1971).

The Proper Use of Study Bibles – Dr. Joel Beeke

Source: Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches by Joel Beeke | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

TTCover-Sept-2015As we continue to take a close look at the purpose and use of study Bibles through this month’s Tabletalk, we consider some thoughts of Dr. Joel R. Beeke in his contribution to the magazine.

Dr. Beeke has penned the article linked above – “Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches”, and has much wise advice for us to consider in using a good study Bible, as well as for studying the Bible in general.

He begins with some negative counsel, the first two of which I give here:

Do not read study Bibles upside down. Study Bibles typically feature the text of Scripture on the top half of the page and the notes on the bottom half. Thus, the top presents the words of God, and the bottom contains mere human interpretations and applications. We read study Bibles upside down when we confuse men’s words with God’s words. No matter how much you admire the people who wrote the notes, never receive their words as the absolute truth from God. Only the biblical text is inerrant.

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5–6; KJV throughout). No study Bible should add to His words but should only explain and apply them.

Do not read study Bibles with your brain turned off. The temptation can be to read a verse, then look down at the note and conclude, “I see; that’s what that means,” and quickly move on. God calls us to meditate prayerfully on His Word (Pss. 1:2; 119:18, 36–37). Do not short-circuit the process of thinking carefully about the Scriptures. By their nature, study Bibles can only offer brief answers to questions. Issues may be much more complex than can be explained in a short note. Therefore, do not assume that you fully understand a matter just because you have read a note in a study Bible.

But he also gives us positive counsel, the last three of which I post here:

Discuss the Bible with family and friends. A study Bible is a great tool for leading family worship, a devotion for a small group, or a study with a friend.

Read the creeds and confessions along with Scripture. Many churches have classes to study doctrinal standards such as a confession of faith or catechism. If your church has such a class, you can use a study Bible that includes the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions among the helps provided. Look up the proof texts attached to a confession of faith or catechism, and study those texts in their biblical contexts. Many study Bibles have several other helpful features such as articles on archaeology, church history, and other important topics. Take time to explore your study Bible’s particular features.

Meditate on the sermon after you return home. To maximize your profit from the preaching of the Word, make notes on the sermons you hear in church and review them at home as a form of meditation. Look up the texts your pastor referenced, and use the notes in your study Bible to augment your meditations. Pray for the assistance of the Spirit, and study with the intent to obey God’s Word.

RHSBible-KJV-2014Dr. Beeke is also the editor of the newly published Reformation Heritage Study Bible (KJV). For more information on that Bible, visit the RHB website, or read this review by Prof.R. Cammenga.


“You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.” – A.Kuyper

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Once more we pick up where we left off last time in Abraham Kuyper’s translated work The Practice of Godliness, the first section titled “The Christian Warfare”, where the fifth chapter describes that battle as it takes place in the church of Jesus Christ. This next quotation is under the sub-heading “obedience.”

     Then, too, it no longer matters if there are no immediate results upon your efforts and protests against evil [in the church]. That makes no difference at all.

For you realize that you have no right or claim to a model church. You acknowledge yourself a humble sinner whose imperfections add to the corruption of the church.

Whether you live to see the church sink deeper into the mire, or to see it lifted to higher planes makes no difference. You are in duty bound to defend her against her enemies all the days of your life, with all of God’s children.

You obey. God bids you labor in His vineyard, and you do so with all the strength He gives you. He bids you not to sit with the scoffers and the ungodly, and you separate yourself from them. He bids you resist the onslaughts of evil upon His house, and you resist them.

When you have learned thus to obey, the battle for the Lord goes on without pause, yet calmly and steadily. It is a labor that looks not upon the results.

You are no longer striving for what you want or deem necessary; you are not impatient, not wearied with complaining or unmanned by disappointment. You simply obey. You are not less zealous, but more; not less constant, but more persevering.

And God, who is merciful, will crown your efforts, in home and heart and church, with His blessing.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), p.61.


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