How Does God Guide Us?

This is a repost from 2014:

How does the Lord guide his people? Assuring us a Christian life with a beginning, a middle and an end, with the end being the tying up of all loose ends? It is an interesting fact that the apostles, in giving much doctrinal and practical guidance, never once (as far as I can see) gave guidance with respect to Christians’ futures. They are never asked, and never offer such guidance, as to what the will of God is for their lives and how they are to discern this. This is disappointing for any one hoping, through prayer or Bible study or some other discipline, to be handed a torch which has the magical power of shining a golden light illuminating the path leading from the present to an assured tomorrow, or to the next year, or the next decade of our lives.

–Paul Helm, Helm’s Deep: Ecclesiastes and the New Testament

Don’t spend your life waiting for God to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. God has already spoken.

–Carl Trueman

Our pictures of life are far too often like eating fast food, or like living under the shadow of a rule book, or like staring glassy-eyed out into the third heaven waiting for “a word from the Lord”. Wisdom challenges all this. It says to us, warmly yet firmly, “Grow up!”, “Mature!”, “Move beyond childhood into adulthood!”, “Use the mind God has given you!”

Wisdom is about learning to apply the gospel to every area of our thinking and doing. We will be tempted to justify our ignorance and mental laziness by saying that we’re trusting the Lord. We may even appeal to Proverbs 3:5-6 to defend this attitude. But that’s not what Proverbs 3:5-6 is about. Rather, it encourages diligent, careful, prayerful, intelligent and enthusiastic exploration of life in the light of the gospel.

–Mark Storm, Symphony of Scripture

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding–
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Also see:
About that little voice in your heart… | Reformation21 Blog

After all of that, I would slightly disagree with the idea that God only speaks from the outside, as the blog post above says, although maybe I’m taking that too literally. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us from within when it comes to conviction of sin(s), God’s character, his love for us in Christ, and reminding us of what He’s taught us in the past (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to spiritual things we hadn’t realized before (Ephesians 1:18). Whenever we hear the Holy Spirit speak, we always need to confirm it with Scripture. Our hearts are too easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to be saturated in Scripture in order to discern from within, and especially nowadays from without, what is true.

The Fear of God

Repost from September 19, 2016:

The fear of God has been one of my favorite subjects. Unfortunately, it’s very misunderstood. This may be partly because it isn’t mentioned much anymore, and many tend to understand the word fear as fright, and only fright. The fear of God is a very multi-faceted doctrine (teaching). It doesn’t just mean awe. There are some translations like the NET which have replaced the word fear with awe, and I think that really flattens out the meaning.

Although I haven’t read a book devoted to this subject, it’s mentioned very often in books, in addition to, of course, the Bible (Genesis 22:12, Deuteronomy 6:1-2, Psalms 2:11, Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 50:10, Acts 9:31, Revelation 14:6-7, for a good representation). I’ve been learning that the fear of God starts out with the realization of our sin, and realizing what we’ve been saved from. Because believers have been saved from sin, and from God’s wrath, we want to obey God not because we’re afraid of him (1 John 4:18), but because we’ve come to appreciate how good his commands are, and to do what our Father tells us, because he’s spelled out the best way to live our lives (Psalm 119, Romans 12:2).

The dread of you makes my flesh creep;
I stand in awe of your decrees.
Psalm 119:120 REB

I will let my two favorite quotes speak about what it means, and there is a very short video below them if you’d like to watch and listen to it.

Biblical fear is not simply “alarm” or “fright,” nor is it simply “dread”; and even “awe” does not fully capture the fear that is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Biblical fear—in its right and mature expression—is a humble and loving response to the character of God. Such fear rightly perceives the awesome and even terrifying power of God, but this perception is tempered with marveling that one so majestic is so concerned for his people.

God is infinite in power but intimate in love. He creates and sustains the universe and yet is present with us. As the earliest of biblical writers said, such knowledge is “too wonderful for me,” and its glorious revelation always takes the blood from our faces and the strength from our knees (Job 42:3). These responses may mirror the human behaviors before a tyrannosaurus, but we would be quite mistaken to say that biblical fear is anything like that fear.

Biblical fear is not merely concern for possible harm. Rather, biblical fear is proper regard for all God discloses about himself in his glory: lordship with love, infinitude with intimacy, an all-powerful hand with a redeeming heart.2 We do not have a single word that adequately translates the term for biblical fear, but we do have a clear example to remove all questions as to its basic meaning. Isaiah prophesies of the coming Messiah, saying that “the fear of the LORD” will “rest on him” and “he will delight in the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2, 3 NIV).

Jesus fears God, and he delights to do so. This means that the relationship of God the Father and God the Son ultimately exemplifies biblical fear. Since we know eternal and infinite love exists between the Father and the Son, we must understand that Christ’s fear cannot simply be terror. Perfect love must drive out that kind of fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus’ intimacy and humility with his heavenly Father reveals that his fear is proper regard for the full spectrum of divine attributes—including his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and love.

Bryan Chapell, The Glory of God, page 191–chapter on A Pastoral Theology of the Glory of God

Christian said, “Without a doubt the right fear can be a good thing, for as the Word says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’”1

“How would you describe right fear?” Hopeful inquired.

Christian explained, “True or right fear can be known by three things. First, by what causes it: the right kind of fear is caused by saving conviction of sin. Secondly, a good fear drives the soul to quickly lay hold of Christ for salvation. And thirdly, this fear begins and sustains in the soul a great reverence for God, His Word, and His ways. It keeps the soul tender, making it afraid to turn right or left from His Word and ways. It makes the soul sensitive to anything that might dishonor God, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak against God.”

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, Crossway Edition

1 Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28

The Fear of God and A Sense of Sin from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Also see:
Saturday à Machen: Joy in the Fear of God | Bouncing into Graceland

Fear God

Recommendation for Your First Puritan Book

Of the Puritan books that I’ve read so far, what I would recommend as the first book for someone who’s interested in starting to read them would be All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson. This is an excellent exposition of Romans 8:28. In addition to being relatively short and easy to read, it’s representative of Puritan thought on God’s sovereignty, providence, and grace as it applies to our lives. Here are two quotes from this book.

Question. What shall we do to love God?
[short] Answer: Study God.
[long] Answer: Did we study Him more, we should love Him more. Take a view of His superlative excellencies, His holiness, His incomprehensible goodness. The angels know God better than we, and clearly behold the splendour of His majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamoured with Him. Labour for an interest in God. “O God, thou art my God” (Psalm 63.1). That pronoun “my”, is a sweet loadstone to love; a man loves that which is his own. The more we believe, the more we love: faith is the root, and love is the flower that grows upon it. “Faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5.6). Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. This is an acceptable request, surely God will not deny it. When king Solomon asked wisdom of God, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3.9), “the speech pleased the Lord” (verse 10). So when you cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee. It is my grief, I can love Thee no more. Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!” surely this prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour of His Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.

Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. ‘Fret not thyself to do evil’ (Psalm 37:8). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning Jonah (Jonah 4:9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast. Let this text produce patience, ‘All things work for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?

–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (Puritan Paperbacks)

If you would like other ideas, Joel Beeke has some recommendations in an article Reading the Puritans, which is from his book Meet the Puritans.

The Puritans can be difficult to read. Their wording, grammatical structure, and detail can be hard for the contemporary mind to grasp. It is best to read short books from some popular Puritan writers before atempting to read Puritans of more theological profundity, such as Owen and Thomas Goodwin (1600–1679). I recommend beginning with Puritan divines like Tomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), John Flavel (1628–1691), and George Swinnock (c. 1627–1673). Watson wrote succinctly, clearly, and simply. His Art of Divine Contentment, Heaven Taken by Storm, and The Doctrine of Repentance are good places to begin.

Flavel, who was pastor at the seaport of Dartmouth, became known as a seaman’s preacher. He is one of the simplest Puritans to read. His Mystery of Providence is flled with pastoral and comforting counsel. Swinnock showed a special sensitivity to the Scriptures and could explain doctrines with great wisdom and clarity. You might try his The Fading of the Flesh and The Flourishing of Faith, recently edited by Stephen Yuille and printed in a contemporary style.

I’ve read Watson’s Art of Divine Contentment. I think All Things for Good would be an easier read. I’ve also read Flavel’s Mystery of Providence, which is an excellent choice, in addition to A Saint Indeed: Or the Great Work of a Christian in Keeping the Heart in the Several Conditions of Life (or just Keeping the Heart), which is an exposition of Proverbs 14:23 which I really liked a lot and would also highly recommend.

All Things for Good

2 Corinthians 12:8 and Answer to Prayer

I just found that I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, although not very much lately. II thougt I would post some from the archives:

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Three times he pleaded for his affliction to be taken away. This is reminiscent of Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane. “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44) “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

We can see that Jesus and Paul were persistent in prayer. Maybe there is significance in comparing the fact that Paul and Jesus both prayed three times but that isn’t a magic formula. Jesus may have prayed that same thing many times before that night. And Paul received a definite answer after three times.

The parables that illustrate persistence in prayer are the impudent friend in Luke 11:5-10 and the bothersome widow in Luke 18:1-8.

Both Jesus and Paul got an answer of “no” to one of their most fervent prayers. This should give us comfort when we and our loved ones don’t get what we wish.

But by no means is that the end of it. God accomplished in Paul and Jesus much more after an answer of “no” than anyone would imagine. God is good (Nahum 1:7) and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” I never thought that this could apply to the answer of “no” until now.

As far as our prayers go, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “Calvin explains that there are two kinds of answers to prayer:

We ask without qualification for those things about which we have sure promise, such as the perfecting of God’s kingdom and the hallowing of His name, the forgiveness of sins and everything profitable* to us. But when we imagine that God’s kingdom can and indeed must be furthered in such and such a way, or that this or that is necessary for the hallowing of His name, we are often mistaken, just as, in the same way, we are often deluded as to what in fact tends to our own welfare.

We can ask with full confidence for what is certainly promised to us, but ‘we cannot prescribe the means.’ God may grant the end that we ask for in prayer, but God may use a means that we do not desire.”

*I’m guessing his definition of “profitable” may be different than what we may think.

We’re not better than Old Testament Christians

Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
Psalm 73:25 KJV

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes how we aren’t any better than Old Testament Christians in his book Faith On Trial, a great exposition of Psalm 73.

One often finds a tendency amongst Christian people to depreciate the Old Testament. It is not that they do not believe in it as the Word of God. They do. But they tend to contrast themselves with the saints of the Old Testament ‘We are in Christ,’ they say, ‘we have received the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saints did not know of this and they are therefore inferior to us.’ If you are tempted to think like that I have one simple question to put to you: Can you honestly use the language that this man uses in these two verses? Have you arrived at a knowledge of God and an experience of God such as this man had? Can you say quite honestly, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee’? How prejudiced we are. These Old Testament saints were children of God as you and l are; indeed, if we read these Psalms quite honestly we shall at times feel rather ashamed of ourselves, and occasionally begin to wonder whether they have not gone farther than we have ever gone. Let us be careful lest we press the difference between the two dispensations too far and make distinctions which end by being thoroughly unscriptural.

A Prayer On Prayer

May the matter of my prayer be always
wise, humble, submissive,
obedient, scriptural, Christ-like.

Give me unwavering faith
that supplications are never in vain,
that if I seem not to obtain my petitions
I shall have larger, richer answers,
surpassing all that I ask or think.

Unsought, thou hast given me
the greatest gift, the person of thy Son,
and in him thou wilt give me all I need.

Partial prayer from The Valley of Vision. See the whole prayer.

Puritans Praying

Praying About Prayer

I’ve been reading in various places about how difficult prayer is for the vast majority of Christians. The possible irony (and by that I don’t mean humor) is that we can forget to pray about prayer. Whether it’s praying about wanting to pray, or praying more, or our experience of praying becoming more and more like the one below–which is what spurred me on to write this post–as the person who wrote this models in the last line, this is something that God is very willing to help us with.

In prayer I see myself as nothing;
I find my heart going after You with intensity,
and long with vehement thirst to live to You.
Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit
that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish,
and nothing seems important
but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear,
and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what You are doing for Your church,
and I long that You should get Yourself a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys;
entering into the eternal world
I can give myself to You with all my heart,
to be Yours for ever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Your hands,
to be entirely at Your disposal,
having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Your kingdom to come,
with greatest freedom, ardent hopes,
as a son to his father,
as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer
and never to cease praying.

This is a portion of a prayer found in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

This isn’t something to feel guilty about, but to aspire to through the Holy Spirit, asking him for zeal, discipline, and affection.

Puritans Praying

New Year’s Puritan Prayer

I’m not much for holidays, but as I was reading/praying this prayer, it sounded like it fit well for this time of year. This is part of the prayer Christian Love, from The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse with thee.
May I grow in thy love and manifest it to mankind.

Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus;
give me his benevolent temper,
his beneficent actions,
that I may shine before men to thy glory.

The more thou doest in love in me and by me,
humble me the more;
keep me meek, lowly,
and always ready to give thee honor.

Puritans

Bible Reading Plans

As the new year comes along, many people evaluate their Bible reading or want to start reading it, and this blog can’t go without a post on something so important, so here is a modified repost. Scripture doesn’t command us to read it exactly once a year, but there are many who live by a book they haven’t read in its entirety. There was a long period of time when I didn’t read my Bible as much as I should have, but I always loved it, and because of God re-instilling the want to do it, thankfully the enthusiasm and purpose returned later on.

Some want to, but just can’t get themselves to do it. I suppose time management is part of this. It shouldn’t be difficult because it only takes about ten minutes of reading a day to read through the book in a year. It may seem like a big task that’s hard to get started. More importantly, asking God to help one want to read it is as important as anything. There are a wide variety of plans, and if the whole Bible is daunting, there is something about that below.

Many feel that they need to understand everything they read. I’ve learned that there are different objectives in the various types of reading and studying. Reading through the Bible is to familiarize ourselves with what it says. This needs to be done regularly, whether it’s once a year, twice a year or once every few years. We need to be saturated in Scripture to learn and be reminded of what it says, which is something the Holy Spirit helps us with (John 14:26). But we have to read it for him to remind us of what it says. Also, if Scripture interprets Scripture, then we need to read the Scripture that might interpret the Scripture that we’re interpreting. There is also repeated reading of smaller portions for even more familiarity. There is ‘devotional’ reading, for lack of a better term, where we read a very small portion very slowly and intently and pray through everything we read. Reading the whole Bible is essential.

Here is a great post on this subject:
How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 – Justin Taylor

You can also find just about every type of reading plan there is on YouVersion. I would stay clear of many of the devotionals on this site.

If you’re really ambitious, then you probably know about Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System. I wrote about it in a previous post.

There are some of you reading this post who have an extraordinarily difficult time reading anything that takes concentration, whether it’s because of mental illness, medication, pain, learning disability or whatever. As the first of the previous links quotes, “it is better to read a single chapter of the Scriptures every day without fail, than to read 15 or 20 on an irregular, impulsive basis1.” And as someone else has said, nowhere in the Bible does it say that we need to read through it once a year.

There is no timetable, schedule, deadline, demand or guilt put on us by God. Although those who are able must get to know and spend time in the Bible, for those who it is a great challenge, just read one paragraph a day and think on it afterwards or later in the day. If you can’t read, there are many audio sources out there for free. For this too, you can do a small amount a day. With all this talk of reading through the Bible in a year, or twice a year or 90 days, I want to encourage those who may feel guilt because of an unusual situation, to give it their all to just read a little and know that God is pleased with you because of what Christ did on the cross for you, not because of what you do. If you have limitations, God knew you would have these (Psalm 139:13-16) and created you to glorify Him (John 9:2-3).

What a great treasure we have. I pray that we will all relish Scripture more and more, and that God will reveal more of himself through His Spirit as we read and study.

Also see:

1. Cf. Orthodox Daily Prayers (South Canaan: St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1982), page 3: “It is better to say a few prayers every day without fail than to say a great number of prayers on an irregular, impulsive basis.”

Holy Bible

Biggest Book Blog Post Ever–Christian Books Read in 2017

By biggest, I mean on this blog. I read far more books in 2017 than I have in any other year. In case you’d like to see all of what I’ve read, you can find them at Good Reads journey in books for 2017. I never, ever thought I’d be someone who would read a book a week (although many of them were short). I only mention this because I had a very bad reading drought–as far as books outside the Bible–around the first half of 2016. I was rather bewildered and prayed quite a bit about it. A wise person told me that God sometimes prunes the good things in our lives (John 15:2b). It showed me how much God is in control of even our desires for what we like to do in our leisure time. Spending more time reading is part of the reason I’ve been blogging less.

I often have ‘the year of…’. This year was the year of Puritans, in addition to fiction, and reading books for the second or third time. I also spent time on learning about speed reading and comprehension/concentration, which helped with the amount of books read, (somewhat–I didn’t get that fast, and you don’t want to speed-read Puritans) and some memory type stuff, along with mind mapping.

Here are some highlights, although I’ll mention all of the Puritan books because every one of them was great:

Puritan Books

I had a strong interest in the Puritans a few years ago; at first I think I liked the idea of them as much as anything else. I got just a little tired and needed a break from them. Then after reading Perkins, I got to appreciate them so much more. I think they have become a permanent staple.

  • The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1 – This was the best book of the year–most of it an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount.
  • A Treatise of Self-denial by Thomas Manton – This is not a very popular subject (!) but for me it’s the second best book of the year.
  • The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded by John Owen – I think this is underrated.
  • The Person of Christ by John Owen – This was difficult to read but had some deep content that was great material for praise and wonder.
  • Sacred Dissertations on the Lords Prayer by Herman Witsius – He’s not technically a Puritan, but Dutch Further Reformer is close enough. This is so far my favorite of the books I’ve read on this subject. I read the original facsimile on my tablet, which is pretty much all you’ll get in any printed book.
  • The Soul’s Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself by Faith by Richard Sibbes – This was the most difficult book to read. It’s within Volume 1 of his works. I’ll be reading more from that. This was one of the books that got D. Martin Lloyd-Jones interested in the Puritans. He says that it was very helpful for him and I can see why.
  • The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod by Thomas Brooks – God used this in a major way.
  • The Vanity of Thoughts by Thomas Goodwin – An excellent and unusually book on our thought life, but not enough on how to deal with them.
  • Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke – I didn’t read all 900 pages, but this really got me straightened out on their history and some of who’s who. (Borrowed)

Contemporary Christian Fiction

I was going to read more of this and watch a little less TV. I read four fiction books and they were a disappointment. Since I was so unfamiliar with the subject, I spent a lot of time looking at books and reviews. It wasn’t worth it. I might read a couple more in 2018. I’d like to go old school and try Dostoyevsky. In any case, I’m watching less TV.

Reading Books for the Second Time

  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer – I can see how much this influenced me when I first read it around xxxx decade(s) ago.
  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair B. Ferguson
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer – This is a good spiritual barometer for me, even if I don’t agree with some of his theology.
  • A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering by Michael S. Horton
  • All Things for Good by Thomas Watson is a book what I would recommend for reading a Puritan for the first time if anyone has trouble with the old English. The paperback edition is inexpensive and the ebook is free.

I would like to continue re-reading more of the good books I already have, which is very beneficial.

Introductory Biblical Theology

  • From Creation to New Creation by Tim Chester
  • What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton Jr.

I plan to continue reading this subject in 2018. These books are very helpful.

I also read two excellent books each by Carl Trueman and Timothy Keller. Some people I follow on Twitter have been poking fun of Keller’s flowery language, among other things, but I really liked his books on Prayer and Suffering. Below is a photo of a book signed by Carl Trueman that a pastor friend of mine had him sign when he was at a conference. This was really nice since I’m not able to attend them, and I’m a fan of the fellow curmudgeon. The book was an excellent introduction to Luther’s theology, even if some of it was a bit over my head. He makes history relevant. I also borrowed Fool’s Rush In Where Monkeys Fear To Tread. This is a fun book. If I owned it, there would be highlighting all over it; if it were digital, you would have seen a lot of quotes here.

Carl Trueman Signature

I could go on, but I better stop there. I didn’t take the time to link the books or insert cover art (do you blame me?). If you’d like to search for any, you can use my Amazon affiliate link. I’d also recommend Reformation Heritage Books, Westminster Books, and also searching on Monergism for free e-books, which is where I’ve gotten many of the Puritan books that I read.

This post might be for my own benefit more than anything else. I commend you if you made it all the way here.

Around the Web

Reflections on R.C. Sproul
“Reflections on his life and legacy continue to be shared online—whether in short tweets or longer obituaries. Below is a collection of some of them.”

Better Man Project: 7 Things I’ve Learned From Reading More
“I never noticed how much easier it was to sit down and actually do it when I was doing it regularly. Not reading made it harder to read. Reading a few hours every morning made it easier to sit down and read in the evening instead of watching television. I have found it easier to read as a leisure activity.”

Love before logic: politics, persuasion, and the Puritans
“the Puritans believed that a lack of love makes it hard to hear. If a disagreement was going to proceed civilly—if it was going to be aimed at actual edification—then only an underlying unity of affections (some basic sort of sympathy with one another) would make it possible.”

Reading Books and Why We Have to Dive – This year I began to really discover the benefits of re-reading good books that I already have. I’ll write a little about this in an upcoming post on reading done in 2017, and maybe more later on.

Puritans and Football and Wisdom

I admit that the subject line is click bait–somewhat. Have you ever heard the argument that some men are more passionate about football than God by how they act when watching a game? They seem to show more emotion when watching football (or whatever the sport) than they would in church. I’ve always thought this was a ridiculous comparison.

Certainly there are many men who profess (or professors, as the Puritans might say) to be Christian that have more love for a sport than for God. But to insinuate that most Christian men, and some women, are more passionate about football than God, just because they get emotional during an event, is very unfair. It’s a matter of assessment.

I’ve always had a picture in my own mind about how this isn’t the case with me or many Christian men I know. As I was reading the Puritan Thomas Manton’s A Treatise Of Self Denial (a very popular topic these days, indeed), I found a perfect quote for annihilating this most absurd notion, despite the fact that it was written in the 1600s. Here he’s helping the reader to compare love of things or people with love for God. (Luke 14:26)

Though comparison be the best way to discover love, yet this love is not to be measured by the lively stirring acts of love so much as by the solid esteem and constitution of the spirit. Why? because the act may be more lively where the love is less firm and rooted in the heart. The passions of suitors are greater than the love of the husband, yet not so deeply rooted. The commotion may be greater in less love, but esteem and solid complacency is always a fruit of the greater love. […] A man may laugh at a toy, yet he cannot be said to rejoice more in that toy than in other things, because the act of his joy is more lively than it would be in a solid, serious matter. We laugh more at a trifle, but are better pleased at a great courtesy. [..] For instance, a man may have more affectionate expressions upon the loss of a child or an estate, than at God’s dishonour. A man may weep more for a temporal loss than for sin. [..] So a man may seem to have more lively joy in sensible blessings than in spiritual, and yet he cannot be concluded to be carnal. Why? because of the solid estimation of his heart; he could rather part with all these things than offend God; had rather want this and that comfort than want the favour of God. […] Therefore the judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and contentments more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion, but by the constant stream and bent of the heart.

I know the older language can be difficult. I shortened it (this is only part of one very long paragraph) so that it would be easier to read and hopefully see his point. Just because we act silly over something in the moment doesn’t mean that we love it more than something else. Suitors may swoon over a person they would like to enter into a serious relationship with, but the “love of a husband” is more deeply rooted. We may even show more delight in a humorous toy than in the serious matter of Biblical doctrine.

Though we should hate everything in this life relative to our love for God (Luke 14:26), and we should ‘order (or manage) our affections’, as the Puritans would say, we need to be careful to assess these things properly.

Extra credit:
The wisdom of some of the Puritans amazes me. Not all of their wisdom comes directly from Scripture, although it would all be in conformity to it. Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean ‘nothing but Scripture’. This also shows how reasonable they were. They didn’t usually take the stereotypical hard-line literal approach that we might think they would take. More in future posts.

Puritans

R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul

We learned that R.C. Sproul died today. I’m not good with eulogies, or even anniversaries or writing about major events, so I’ll just write a little bit about what I’ve learned from him.

The first book I read of his is The Truth of the Cross. I just looked up a review of this book I did on the blog and see that it’s the first book I ever reviewed. I will always remember his exposition of portions of the Old Testament leading to the cross, which was especially helpful for me.

Next I read The Prayer of the Lord, which I also reviewed here. I also read his very well-known The Holiness of God.

I have also learned a lot from Reformed questions and answers that are on Youtube. This is where you can see what the man was really like. His humor was often evident.

Two things that especially impressed me about him are his precision regarding the understanding and teaching of Biblical doctrine, and the fact that even though his knowledge was so deep, he made it his life’s work to teach regular people about mere Christianity.

For the miserly, you can find some of his books for free in audio or Kindle format on Amazon.

Quotes from The Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1 – Pt. 2

I have some fine quotes from The Combat Between Christ and the Devil Displayed which is contained in The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1. These pertain to affliction that I found to be especially good. All of the text and references (remember, you can hover over or tap them) in brackets are the editor’s, not mine.

The wheat will not be good without the fan, nor the meal without the bolter, nor the bush without the flame, nor the sacrifice without the cords, nor the gold without the furnace; they are trials, not punishments, if we be sons; punishments, not trials, if we be slaves. Let us then bear them, they will have an end [Ps. 37:37]; joy will follow [Ps. 126:5]; they show us our weakness [Isa. 38:10]; they move us to pray [Hos. 5:15]; they show we are in the pathway to heaven [Luke 24:26]; and [they] make us condemn this present world [Eccl. 1:2].

[…]

Let us then therefore be patient in trouble, constant in hope, rooted in love; let us wait and He will come, call and He will hear, believe and He will perform, repent us of our evil committed against Him, and He will repent of His evils intended against us. He is over us by His providence, about us by His angels, in us by His Spirit, with us by His Word, under us by His power, and upon us by His Son. In Him is our help, from Him is our comfort, by Him is our victory, and for Him is our trouble.

our Savior Christ after His solemn inauguration into His mediators hip [baptism], was immediately to go to be tempted, we learn, that all those that are set apart by God to any special calling, even at their very entrance thereinto must look for temptations. This befell the Head, and therefore all the members must reckon for it.

[…]

this [temptation/affliction] the Lord does in great wisdom for the good of His children: first to teach them, that no man is able of himself to carry himself in any acceptable course of his calling without God’s special assistance and grace. Secondly, to stir up in them those good gifts and graces which He has formerly bestowed on them; as the fear of His name, the love of His majesty, the gifts of prayer, faith, patience, and many other which He would have tried in the entrance of their callings, and exercised in the continuance therein unto the end.

God’s will permitting Satan so far must make us patient, and yet His power restraining Satan from doing worse, must give us comfort.

The Works of William Perkins Volume 1

Also see:
Quotes from The Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1 – Pt. 1

Quotes from The Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1 – Pt. 1

This post is in the series of Book Quotes, where various quotes are posted to give the reader an idea of what the book and author are like.

William Perkins (1558-1602) is often called a father of Puritanism, being one of the early, well-known (in the 17th century) Puritan preachers. J. I. Packer writes, “No Puritan author save Richard Baxter ever sold [books] better than Perkins, and no Puritan thinker ever did more to shape and solidify historic Puritanism itself”. It’s strange that he’s not as well-known now. He may be my favorite Puritan and one of my favorite authors in any period of history.

Here are some preliminary quotes. The first few quotes are from the introduction and offer some insight into the Puritans in general.

he devised a very simple structure in preaching and writing: exposition, doctrines, reasons, and uses.

Perkins, along with many Reformers and later Puritans used this method of preaching. They would often preach through a book of the Bible, expositing a passage or verse each day. They would also explain doctrine (teaching) that goes along with it. ‘Reasons’ are why–often using question and answer format. ‘Use’ would be what we call application. I like the word use a lot better.

“The form of justification, is, as it were, a kind of translation of the believer’s sins unto Christ, and again Christ’s righteousness unto the believer, by a reciprocal or mutual imputation.” This concept of “mutual imputation” flowed directly from Perkins’s covenant theology.

Perkins was a Puritan in terms of his piety. “For the pure heart is so little regarded,” says he, “that the seeking after it is turned to a by-word, and a matter of reproach. Who are so much branded with vile terms of Puritans and Precisians, as those that most endeavor to get and keep the purity of heart in a good conscience?” Again, “The due obedience to the moral law is nick-named and termed preciseness, and the professors thereof called Puritans and Precisians, for this cause only, that they make conscience of walking in obedience to God’s law.”

The Puritans weren’t the killjoys that the sterotype would portray. They did preach and write extensively about obedience, purity of heart, and having a good conscience. They were as much maligned for that back then as some are now.

Definitions:
‘The term experimental comes from the Latin verb experior—“to know by experience.”’
Many use the word experiential, which is more understandable to people unfamiliar with the terminology.

hurliburlies – noisy confusion – I’m not making that up. He only used it once.

mammonists – those who are greedy, among other things – I think this term should be resurrected.

sanctification or renewed holiness, whereby we are enabled to walk before God in new obedience, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness.” He uses this term more often for initial renewal than continued growth. I would look further into this.

I have some interesting quotes on affliction and the Sermon on the Mount coming up. This is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. The hardcover is expensive, but a lot of work went into editing it which is a big help. I bought the Kindle version at a reduced price. I plan on getting Volume 2 which is an exposition of Galatians. Thankfully the Kindle version is the standard $9.99.

The Works of William Perkins Volume 1