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July 27, 2016

Last week I spent a couple of days at Muskoka Bible Centre, a Christian camp north of Toronto where we love to spend time in the summer. While there I cracked open a new book by Michael Haykin and saw that, fittingly enough, he had dedicated it to the staff and guests of MBC. I took it as a sign that I ought to keep reading. I’m glad I did.

Eight Women of Faith is a collection of brief historical vignettes, each of which introduces a Christian woman from days gone by and reveals some of her unique contributions during her life and times. Haykin’s goal is “to remind contemporary Christians, especially evangelicals, of the vital role that women have played in the history of our faith.”

In some ways the book divides neatly into two parts. Haykin explains: “The first two chapters, those on Lady Jane Grey and Margaret Charlton Baxter, explore women’s lives in the church prior to the significant changes of the eighteenth century. Jane speaks to the way that women made the faith of the Reformation their own, and Margaret shows how women helped men in ministry, in this case, her husband, Richard Baxter.”

The next six chapters explore what it was like to be a Christian woman in the eighteenth century. Here he looks at Anne Dutton, a theological writer; Sarah Edwards, who “reveals the way some Christian women have had profound experiences of God for the blessing of the church;” Anne Steele, who wrote hymns which are still treasured today; Esther Edwards Burr, Sarah Edwards’ daughter, who has much to say about Christian friendship; Ann Judson, who was a pioneer missionary and “something of an icon for generations of women missionaries who followed her;” and finally Jane Austen, easily the most famous of the subjects, whom few know to be a serious Christian.

In this way the book is more than a collection of eight short biographies. Yes, Haykin provides biographical details, but his purpose is less to recount the character’s life than to point to her faith and to the way she grew and served during her lifetime. He means to show the vital importance of women for the life and health of the Christian church. He does not merely describe these women in relation to their husbands as so many biographers have done (at least for those who had a husband), but shows that they were godly in their own right, that even apart from their husbands they had deep faith and a desire to serve the Lord and his people. They were, indeed, women of faith.

As for me, my favorite chapter was the one on Jane Austen, perhaps because I’ve read so little about her faith (which seems to have been very strong and genuine) or perhaps because I’ve only just begun to read and enjoy Emma, which many regard as her finest work.

In Eight Women of Faith, Michael Haykin was provided a neat book, a helpful book, and a unique book. He has provided a book that will benefit any and all of us. I recommend it!

July 27, 2016

There are a couple of new Kindle deals today: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton and the NIV Lifehacks Bible by Joe Carter. Or if you are into printed books…

9Marks’ Building Healthy Churches is a great series meant to, well, build healthy churches. Westminster Books has discounted the whole series and the discounts increase as you buy more of them. A lot of other 9Marks books are also on sale. Buy them for yourself, for your pastor, or for your church.

Marriage Manifesto for Men

Ed Welch’s article is pretty short as manifestos go, but a good read. He talks about responsibility in marriage and, despite the title, it applies to both husbands and wives.

The Bug With the Great Big Eyes

It has been a long time since I’ve linked to a collection of photos. Here are some quality ones from the BBC. “From the macro to the massive, deserts to underwater worlds, here is a selection of our favourite photographs from the Earth Capture community this week.”

14 Rules for Being a Godly Employee

Jordan Standridge: “Not too long ago I found a little article a professor shared with us that was written by an old pastor. He offered 14 rules that he tried to live by in order to be the best pastor possible. As I looked through his ‘rules’ it was obvious that this didn’t just apply to pastors, but rather it could be applied to any job anywhere.”

Accountability Software Roundup

Steven Kryger: “Accountability software is a powerful tool in the pursuit of purity online. Here’s a comparison of 5 of the best tools on the market today.”

Ask Pastor John

Andy Naselli just finished listening to all 900+ episodes of Ask Pastor John and shares what he considers a few of the strongest episodes. If you’re new to the podcast, you might like to begin with these ones.

This Day in 1945.71 years ago today, Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s parents learned of his execution through a broadcast emanating from London. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian, active in the resistance to Hitler and Nazism.*

Dutch Men and Latvian Women

This interested me primarily because I grew up among tall Dutch folk. “Dutch men and Latvian women are now the tallest in the world, height study reveals. Where do you stand on the global height chart?”

How My Special-Needs Sister Teaches Me to Trust God’s Heart

I enjoyed this article by Allyson Todd. “It seems like part of growing up is finally realizing how much your childhood affected your adulthood. You start to realize that you have habits and presuppositions because of your family, and you also have interests and values that are shaped by your experiences as a kid. One of the most formidable things that shaped who I am today is my sister, Amanda. She is now 21 years old, reads more books than I do, just graduated high-school, and has Down’s Syndrome.”

Flashback: No Platform High Enough

“No matter your goal, no matter your god, it will not and cannot bring lasting satisfaction. In this world, God’s world, these kinds of desires were never meant to bring ultimate satisfaction…”

Tripp

We will never be so holy as to meet God’s standard and we are never too wicked as to be beyond his rescue. —Paul Tripp

Working Well
July 26, 2016

Yesterday I shared a short article about working well—about doing our work in a way that pleases God. We looked at some verses from the book of Ephesians but didn’t quite get through them, so today I want to carry on. Paul began by saying that Christians are to work and followed that by saying Christians are to ensure that they always complete their work with a view to pleasing God.

But even that isn’t enough. Paul says that you are to complete your work (“render your service”) with a good will. That is quite the command because it indicates that not only does God expect you to do good work, but he expects you to have to have a good attitude while you do it. And remember that in this letter he is not writing to executives in corner offices but slaves who draw no salary and receive no benefits!

What does it mean to work with a good will? It means that if you are working for a business, you should want that business to succeed and do everything you can to make that happen. You should even want your manager or your boss to succeed and do your utmost to help them forward. Wanting the company to succeed means you want the people around you to succeed, even if they achieve greater levels of success than you do. This may be the most unusual and godly character trait in the work-a-day world—a person who genuinely wants his peers to succeed. But what a mark of a person who has been transformed by the gospel! This is dying to self, this is working as unto the Lord instead of working unto men. Can you rejoice with those who rejoice, even if the person rejoicing is the one who got the promotion you wanted and maybe the promotion you deserved?

No matter who you are or what you do, you’ve got something to learn here. Your work, every bit of it, is to be done as unto the Lord. You don’t work ultimately to please men but to please God. God is your ultimate boss and he wants your work to be a reflection of your relationship with him. How will you work for him? Will you do shoddy work? Will you do just enough? Will you cut corners and see how much you can get away with? Or will your gratitude for all he has done compel you to joyfully give your best work every day?

At this point Paul has told you to do your work and to do your work in such a way that you please God. He has one thing left to say: Wait for payday.

Wait for payday!

As he so often does, Paul tells Christians to lower their expectations of adequate reward today and tells them to look for extravagant reward in the future. He tells you to work hard, to work as a God-pleaser and not a man-pleaser, to work with a good attitude that rejoices in the success of others, and then he says this: “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” Now if this was true of slaves, how much more is it true of us who are fully free?

Now that you are working to please the Lord instead of working to please men, now that you are free from man-pleasing, you no longer have to obsess with getting recognition for every good thing you do. You can be the manager who cleans up the mess even when no one sees you doing such menial labor. You can be the guy who quietly helps someone else succeed even in a way that will never, ever be noticed. You can work harder than everyone else and never get a raise and still be full of joy and still be completely fulfilled. Why? Because a future payday, a future reward is coming.

There are all sorts of good things you can and should do that other people won’t notice. There are all sorts of good things you’ve done that others have forgotten about. But the Lord sees everything and he knows everything and he remembers everything. He is the one who will reward all the good things you do—those things you do for the good of others and the glory of God. All masters and all slaves, all employers and all employees, all of us, have the opportunity right now to work for the Lord and to look forward to his reward. Do you see the joy and freedom this brings to your work?

Is your job difficult? Does it seem menial? Is it the same thing day-after-day? The Lord tells you to do your work with excellence, to do it with joy, to do it as worship to him. Does your work leave you feeling unfulfilled? That’s okay! You don’t need to find ultimate fulfillment in the here and now, but can do your work well and look forward to a reward to come. And that reward will come. He promises it!

As is so often the case in the Christian life, you just need to extend your vision a little bit and wait a little longer. The truest and deepest fulfillment doesn’t come with the boss’s praise or the fat paycheck or the raise or the promotion. The truest and best fulfillment is in doing the work the Lord has called you to do, in doing it for his glory, in doing it with joy, and in looking forward to the reward that will come.

July 26, 2016

As mentioned yesterday, Amazon is updating the ways sites like mine may or may not link to their Kindle deals and remain in compliance with their affiliate program. For that reason I am trying some new options. I apologize for the inconvenience as I try to navigate this.

Today’s Kindle deals include: Set Free by Stephen Owens; Evidence for God by William Dembski; Preaching to a Post-Everything World by Zack Eswine. You can learn more and buy them right here.

A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’

John Piper has put together a short guide to free will.

Died: Tim LaHaye

Christianity Today writes about Tim LaHaye who died yesterday. “The founder and president of Tim LaHaye Ministries and founder of the PreTrib Research Center, LaHaye sold 80 million copies of the series with Jenkins. ‘In terms of its impact on Christianity it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible,’ the late Jerry Falwell, a friend of LaHaye’s, told Time magazine in 2005.” (Alternatively, read WORLD.)

40 Years of Theological Education

D.A. Carson is Jason Allen’s guest on the most recent episode of Preaching and Preachers.

Listen in as Four Theologians Discuss the Trinity Debate

Fred Zaspel interviews four theologians outstanding theologians on the recent Trinity debate. He speaks with Dr. Mike Ovey, Oak Hill College, London, UK; Dr. Fred Sanders, Torey Honors Institute, Biola University, La Marida, CA; Dr. Scott Swain, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL; Dr. Steve Wellum. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.

10 Things You Should Know about Thomas Aquinas

Sam Storms: “We Protestants often fail to take note of the unique and sometimes profitable contributions of Roman Catholic theologians of the past. So today we look at 10 things we should know about Thomas Aquinas.”

This Day in 1833.183 years ago today, Britain’s House of Commons banned slavery. Upon hearing the news, William Wilberforce, who gave his life to abolish the slave trade said, “Thank God I have lived to witness [this] Day .” He died three days later. *

Money Bags

Bill Mounce asks for help translating a word that doesn’t have a clear modern-day English equivalent. It’s in Luke 10 and a few other places: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out.”

Is God Always Pleased with You?

Michael Kruger has shared the third entry in his series “Taking Back Christianese.” We often hear Christians say things like “Don’t feel bad about this sin. If you are a believer, then God is always pleased with you. He can never be more pleased with you than he is right now.” Is that accurate?

Flashback: John MacArthur Wants Us to Grow Up

A few years ago John MacArthur penned some articles meant for the Young, Restless, Reformed crowd. Here I reflected on them.

Brooks

If the whole world were changed into a globe of gold it could not fill thy heart. —Thomas Brooks

Working Well
July 25, 2016

It seems appropriate that during a season when so many of us—myself included—are enjoying times of vacation, we should pause to consider matters of work and vocation. I was recently brushing up on some of these things myself, especially as they are laid out in the book of Ephesians. There we find Paul addressing the relationships of slave to master and master to slave and from that point we are but a short step away from drawing applications for all of us who work.

Slavery was simply a fact of life in that day and time. Today we look back with horror when we imagine all of these people who were masters and slaves—even Christian masters and slaves in the same church. Better theologians than I have told how the Bible views slavery, what it meant in that context, and how the gospel undermines slavery and destroys it from within. But for our purposes we are going to bypass that discussion and move straight to applications for why and how we work.

Here’s what the text says:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:5-9)

One unavoidable conclusion we can draw from these verses is that you make a statement about the gospel by what you do and how you behave in your workplace. If this was true for slaves, it is every bit as true for you who have the liberty to choose what you do. If you have a good attitude and do good work you make a completely different statement than if you have a bad attitude and do bad work. When you claim to be a Christian but deliver poor quality work laced with grumbling and complaining, you make the gospel look bad  as if it isn’t transformative, as if it hasn’t really changed you from the inside out.

Whether you are an employee or an employer, a manager or a line-worker, a tradesman or a Wall Street executive (that’s Bay Street here in Canada), you will benefit by hearing three instructions from God as given by Paul.

Do your work!

His first instruction is this: Do your work! “Slaves, obey your earthly masters.” Your boss expects you to work and to work hard, so obey him and do what he tells you to. Work hard! That seems like an obvious command, but I don’t want you to miss this: The fact that the Lord tells you to work gives your work dignity. It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re ruling a whole nation or managing a team of two. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making millions in the financial district or if you’re fixing plumbing or flipping burgers. Your work is inherently good and valuable because the Lord tells you to do it. He wouldn’t tell you to do something useless or meaningless.

You need to work. You also need to obey the people who are over you in that work. Whenever Paul talks about authority he connects it to the authority of Christ; whenever he talks about obedience he makes it a lesser form of the greater obedience to Christ. He does that here. Employees, you need to obey your manager or your employer in the same way you would obey Christ. These are not two different things. The way you understand the employee/employer relationship flows right out of the way you understand your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you want to obey Christ, you need to obey your boss. In fact, you need to obey your boss in the way you obey Christ.

There is the first thing you need to understand and apply in the workplace—you need to work hard and obey those who are over you.

Do your work to please God!

Here’s the second instruction: Do your work to please God. How are you to relate to the person who oversees you? Ultimately, the way you relate to Christ himself. “With fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” That’s quite a mouthful, but the heart of it is this: Be a God-pleaser rather than a man-pleaser. Do your work to please God. This instruction assumes that you will always be tempted to work for lesser motives, to do your work for the wrong reasons and under the eye of the wrong people.

I can think of at least two different ways that you may be tempted to be a man-pleaser rather than a God-pleaser in your work. The first temptation is to do your work in such a way that you make people happy, but not in such a way that you think first and foremost about pleasing the Lord. It’s often easy enough to please your boss even when you don’t work as hard as you can or deliver your best results. You can spend all day staring at Facebook and as soon as your boss walks into the office you shut down your browser and look like you’re working hard. Your boss might be fooled for a while, but God is not. This shows you are more concerned about the way other people see you than the way God sees you. You may do your work just enough to get away with it in the eyes of the boss. That’s one way that you can be a man-pleaser—when you do your work just well enough to keep the boss happy.

The second way you can be a man-pleaser instead of God-pleasers is when you work to be noticed by men instead of doing your work as a means of worship to the Lord. In this case you work to be noticed. You work long, long hours and drive yourself to the point of burn-out and exhaustion to get ahead and to be noticed. Or you do your work well not because you long to do excellent work as a reflection of an excellent God, but because you want to be the employee of the month or to get your face on the front cover of the newsletter, or you want to receive praise from men.

Remember that in this context Paul is talking to slaves, people who were not just employed but were actually owned. Paul reminds them that even as slaves of earthly masters, they are already slaves of Christ. You, too, are a slave of Christ. Your ultimate allegiance, then, is not to your employer or manager but to Him. Ultimately, you are not working to please your boss but to please Jesus  He cannot be fooled. His standards are higher. Not only that, but he is ultimately deserving of your best work at all times. Work in a way that you please him first.

And because I have a fair bit left to say, I am going to break right here and make this a two-part article. I will continue tomorrow.

July 25, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by John Piper, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung; Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb; Designed for Joy edited by Jonathan Parnell & Owen Strachan; A Grief Sanctified by J.I. Packer; The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Volume 1 and Volume 2. Because of new Amazon policies, I can no longer link to the deals directly. For now I will direct you to this spreadsheet as I look for a better option: Kindle deals for Christians.

3 Things Sin Can’t Do To the Christian

Cody Barnhart offers “three things to remember about sin to remind yourself that it has ultimately lost its power in your life. These reminders help us eliminate the shame we feel after disobedience and push us to repent of our sin even when we’re tempted to wallow in it.”

The Likelihood of Increased Persecution in America

Randy Alcorn writes about what seems to be the unavoidable conclusion that there will be increased persecution of Christians in the near future.

How ‘Free Grace’ Theology Diminishes the Gospel

You may enjoy this review of a new book by Wayne Grudem. “How does saving faith relate to repentance? Does it always produce good works? Should we ever doubt our faith is genuine? And what does it mean to say we’re justified by faith alone? These are the sorts of vital questions Grudem tackles in this book.”

How Do Hummingbirds Fly Without Crashing?

“A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Anna’s Hummingbirds connect different visual cues to keep from crashing into things duiring their high-speed journeys to collect pollen.”

You Have Enough Time to Study the Bible

Ryan Higginbottom allows for extraordinary circumstances but says “Among Christians, I suspect busyness is the top excuse for not studying the Bible. It seems we don’t have enough time for God’s word. I’ve made this excuse many times myself.”

This Day in 1899. 117 years ago today, Stuart Hine was born. While an English missionary to the Ukraine, he penned the English words to the Swedish hymn we know today as “How Great Thou Art.” *

Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids

Sara Wallace distinguishes between two words: “We want to be parents who discipline rather than punish. While we don’t necessarily know if our children are Christians, this is one of the most tangible ways we can point them to the hope of a Savior.”

Word Study Missteps

George Guthrie continues his series on doing word studies the right way (or, if you prefer, not doing them the wrong way).

Flashback: We Are All Virgins Now

Virginity matters because sexual purity matters because God says it matters. But it is not the highest of virtues. It is not the measure of a godly young man or young woman. It is not the goal and the measure of Christian living.

MacArthur

Example is the most powerful rhetoric. —John MacArthur

July 24, 2016

Last week I was in England and spent a fair bit of time touring sites related to church history. As we passed by a church building in Cambridge, our host said as an aside, “That was Charles Simeons’ church.” I immediately took note because lately I’ve been so enjoying Simeons’ work. I purchased his strangely-titled Horae Homileticae for Logos and have found it a brilliant resource for Bible study and preaching preparation—one of my new favorites. In this work, a commentary on large swaths of Scripture, he shows an amazing ability to explain and apply the text. Here is an example from Matthew 5:14-16 (“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid…). Be sure to read the second part since there’s gold there—a serious challenge to every Christian.

How we may become lights to the world. Simple as this question may appear, there are few who would answer it aright. Almost all would propose to attain this distinction by doing; and would be shocked at being told that it must be attained by believing: yet that is the very way by which our blessed Lord has taught us to seek it: “Believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” This, of course, is not to be understood as though a bare assent to any truths whatever would sanctify the soul: it is to be understood as directing us to the Gospel, and to the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in it. To believe in the light, is to look for salvation entirely through Him whom God has set forth to be a propitiation for sin; it is to live altogether by faith on him, and to make him our all in all. This would render our union with Christ productive; and would lead to our perfect renovation after the Divine image. Then should we “shine indeed as lights in a dark world;” and God himself would be glorified in us.

What we should do if we have already attained that honour. Remember that the eyes of all are upon you, and that God’s glory in the world is very greatly affected by your conduct. Any fault in you will soon be noticed by the world. They who pay little regard to the stars that shine in their orbits, will yet be observant enough of a falling star  and, in like manner, they who overlook the radiance of ten thousand saints, will mark with triumph the fall of a professor, and derive from it an argument against all serious religion. Be on your guard then against every thing which may either eclipse your light, or cause it to shine with diminished splendour. Be earnest also to get forward in your Christian course. The brightest of us emits only as yet the faint gleam of early dawn: “our profiting must continually appear;” and “our path be as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”