What Should Holiness Look Like in Your Life?

What Should Holiness Look Like in Your Life? from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Godward Focus – The Puritans Got it Right

Godward Focus – The Puritans Got it Right from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Cramming Life With Too Many Good Things

Cramming Life With Too Many Good Things from NCFIC on Vimeo.

What Does a Holy Man or Woman Look Like?

What Does a Holy Man or Woman Look Like from NCFIC on Vimeo.

The Family Worship Bible Guide

 

FAMILY WORSHIP BIBLE GUIDE from Puritan Seminary on Vimeo.

Hiking the trails of our national parks can be an experience of exhilarating beauty, or utter frustration when you get lost in the woods. A good guide can make all the difference. In the same way, the Family Worship Bible Guide will lead your family down the trails of the Bible to see the glory of the Lord—and avoiding getting frustrated. Who among us has not known what it is like to read a chapter of the Bible to our children or for our devotions, and have no idea what it has to do with our lives today? Here is help.

This book offers brief, major takeaway thoughts for personal application for every chapter of the Bible. Whereas most devotional books address only select parts of God’s Word, this book is unique in that it walks you through the whole Word of God and shows how to apply it to your life, one chapter at a time. Yet its emphasis on application is not man-centered, but God-centered, for it builds upon the foundational truth that all the Scriptures testify to the glory of God in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Whether you are looking for help with your personal devotions, or desire to lead family worship in the home, are reading the Bible with a friend, or need wisdom as you prepare to teach or preach in church, this is a great tool, regardless of what Bible translation you read.

The Family Worship Bible Guide also includes an eight-page introductory essay on how to do family worship, an excellent starter course for those who have never done it before, and a helpful refresher for the experienced Christian parent.

The Fear of God and a Sense of Sin

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Below is a short video where I explain how a sense of God’s majesty transforms how we view sin, Christ, and everything. To learn more about the fear of God, join us at the NCFIC national conference, October 27–29.

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

 

End the Year Well by Meditating on Glory

The closing curtain of this year reminds us that our end is drawing near on earth. When the true believer bids farewell to the house of God below, he finds another home above. The departed saint reaches the summit of Mount Zion and enters the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22–24). He joins the innumerable company of angels and saints, whose names are written in heaven. He appears in peace and reconciliation before God, the Judge of all, and forms an everlasting fellowship with the spirits of the just made perfect. He comes to Jesus “the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24).

Oh, how blessed is a believer’s translation from the church on earth to the church in heaven! Goodness and mercy have followed him throughout life, and now goodness and mercy surround him on every side. Who shall describe the unspeakable joy of his soul as he enters into glory? How satisfied he will be with all he sees and hears! With grateful adoration he will worship his faithful God who has fulfilled all His promises and surpassed even the believer’s highest expectations. Who can conceive of the joy and gratitude with which he will join in the song of his redeemed brethren: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5–6)!

How imperfect are our highest conceptions of the beauty, blessedness, holiness, and glory of God’s eternal house. To know it as it is, we must be caught up, as Paul was, into the “third heaven,” but even then its realities cannot be described in earthly language (2 Cor. 12:2, 4). As great as is the happiness and glory that the departed saint enjoys in his purely spiritual condition, there is more to come. His mortal body will be raised out of the dust and no longer be natural and corruptible, but be transformed into a Spirit-dominated and immortal body, made fit for heaven (1 Cor. 15:44). Gathered from the dust of the grave by the hand of the Creator, it will become a pure and crystal vessel prepared to receive the believer’s glorified soul. Joy will abound in the house of the Lord on resurrection morning, when the souls of the saints are joined with their resurrected, glorified bodies. They will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and be introduced into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

When the Great Shepherd appears in the heavens, there will be joy unequalled in heaven and earth. The “times of the restitution of all things” will gladden all the holy angels and every redeemed human being (Acts 3:21). The trumpet will sound to proclaim that “the year of my redeemed has come” (Isa. 63:4). Universal liberty will be granted to all God’s elect. The bond slaves of corruption will finally be emancipated. The prison house of the grave will be thrown open, and its bodies resurrected. There will be a continuous season of spiritual peace, harmony, joy, brotherhood, happiness, and prosperity. All the saints will be arrayed in white and shining garments; as victors, they will wave palm branches and wear crowns of life and righteousness received from the hand of Christ.

The dead in Christ will rise first, and the saints who are still alive will be changed into the likeness of their Lord. Then in one blessed company they will all be caught up in the air to meet their glorious Redeemer (1 Thess. 4:13–18). He has already changed their vile bodies into the likeness of His glorious body—incorruptible, powerful, spiritual, and heavenly (Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:42–44, 49). So in soul and body the redeemed saints will now be the perfect possession of their Lord. Their names will be confessed before the angels of God (Luke 12:8), and they will possess their everlasting inheritance. They will forever dwell in the house of the Lord and surround the throne of the Lamb!

The pilgrims will rest in their true home (Heb. 11:13). As good and faithful servants, they have completed their work, which the Lord declares to be well done. They are then invited to enter into their Master’s joy (Matt. 25:21). The runners of the race have finished their course and have won the prize of their high calling (Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:7). The soldiers of Christ have fought the good fight of faith, secured victory by grace, and received the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:7–8).
The little flock of sheep need not fear anymore, for they see that their Father’s good pleasure was to give them the kingdom (Luke 12:32). They were poor but now find treasure in heaven, inheritance in light, fullness of joy, and an eternal weight of glory (Ps. 16:11; Matt. 6:20; 2 Cor. 4:17). All doubts of their acceptance are gone. Faith has given way to sight; hope has given way to fruition. They see that the One who went before them has indeed prepared a place for them (John 14:2). They are safe within their fold. They are welcomed at the table that their gracious Host has prepared for them. They behold the King in His beauty (Isa. 33:17) and live in the enjoyment of His love. The reigning Lamb leads them to fountains of living water and wipes away all their tears (Rev. 7:17). The Lord God Almighty is their unfading portion, their ever-open temple, their everlasting light, and their eternal glory (Rev. 21: 22–23).

As believers, we will dwell in heaven in a perfected state; all good will be walled in, all evil, walled out. There we can do no wrong, see no iniquity, hear no evil, and receive no spiritual harm. The Redeemer, then seen in His glorified human form, will fill our thoughts, and will be the theme of our conversation and the object of our adoration. Our soul will burn within itself while Christ reveals what He has suffered and the glory that is now His. In beatific vision, we will experience inexpressible delight in Christ’s presence and praise the Triune God forever in high, holy, and celestial strains. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Ten Lessons from My Eye Surgeries

Yesterday my dermatologist removed the basal cell skin cancer from my lower left eyelid. In Mohs surgery, the doctor removes a slice of the affected area. They examine it microscopically and, if there is more cancer, they remove another a slice until the margins are clear of cancer. Usually one or two slices are needed, but in my case he needed to take four layers, as it extended down and to the sides. This involved 60% of the lid. If it had been 30% or less, the plastic surgeon could have just pulled it together, but more extensive surgery was needed. Mary took me from the dermatologist’s office to the out-patient surgery center. God gave us the two best doctors possible. So the plastic surgeon grafted a sliver of skin from the fold of my upper eyelid to repair the lower wound. Then she made a flap of the cartilage from the upper eyelid and stitched it to the wound site. Consequently, my eye is sewn shut, allowing the cartilage to establish a blood supply and grow into the wound site. In three weeks, she will snip the shared cartilage and, aside from missing 60% of my lower eyelashes, the repair should not be noticeable. The amazing thing is how the body repairs itself—we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

I suppose that I am too much of a Puritan not to reflect upon lessons to be learned and to examine myself after going through these surgeries. I hope that such self-examination is a good thing, although it can be painful in itself, and, of course, it can become too introspective if it is not corralled by biblical principles, such as those taught by John Calvin. Calvin taught that self-examination is necessary and profitable so long as it is based on the Scriptures, ends in Christ, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Here are ten practical reflections the day after my surgery which I hope you will find helpful:

  1. Unlike God, doctors are not infallible, sovereign, and almighty. They too can make mistakes. I have a very skilled dermatologist with whom I often talk theology—he’s read a number of my books. Despite having a great dermatologist, he wrong diagnosed a wart on my lower eyelid early this year, and told me it was definitely not cancerous. Four months later, it proved to be cancerous, however. “Regretfully,” he said, “I was wrong last time, but you know your theology well enough to know that only God is infallible!” Well, I couldn’t argue with that! Meanwhile, it kept growing until I could finally get the two specialists scheduled back-to-back for yesterday, but I see even more clearly now that this is all, of course, God’s sovereign will for me. (Positively speaking, my dermatologist has been right the other ten times when I’ve had less serious spots taken off by him, mostly on my face. I seem to have inherited this thorn in the flesh from my father. My brothers and nephew have it too.)
  2. Under God, doctors are invaluable and important. We don’t put our trust ultimately on earthy physicians but in our heavenly Triune God, but even as we do so, we recognize that the Ultimate Cause of all things (our fatherly sovereign God) normally carries out His fatherly will through secondary causes (like earthly doctors). Therefore it is not wrong but actually important to ask meaningful questions and seek for highly qualified physicians in whose abilities you can have confidence on the human, secondary level. The doctors God appointed me are both well-known as being highly skilled and gifted—and I took some comfort in the fact that several of my friends who are physicians concurred strongly with this. I regard this as a significant act of God’s grace in the larger picture of what I experienced yesterday.
  3. Faith versus sense and unbelief wages a fierce war at times. That already began early this month when the plastic surgeon told me in a pre-op appointment that though it was rare (5 per cent chance, she said), there are times that if more than 30 percent of the lower lid needs to be taken, then the surgery becomes “messy and complicated,” and the eye must be stitched shut for about three weeks. Knowing how long this cancer had been growing, I was immediately afraid. A week later that fear was compounded by speaking with someone else who went through this surgery and developed severe problems such that another surgery was needed three months later. So, when my dermatologist yesterday said that a second surgical extraction needed to be made because the cancer was both deeper and wider than thought and the first extraction made was like mush, I asked the doctor if that means he’d have to take more than 30 percent of my eyelid, and that I would have to go through the more difficult plastic surgery route. When he said, “I’m afraid that it is looking that way,” my immediate thought was, “But Lord, didn’t the last person who prayed with me at the seminary this morning ask that Thou wouldst do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think—which was exactly my prayer the day before”—and isn’t this prayer being refuted now? The battle of faith versus sense was enflamed. My only recourse was to consciously discipline my mind to fly to Christ.
  4. Faith and pity can far too easily coexist. After the dermatologist took a large chunk the second time, I felt confident that the cancer was all removed, but the report came back that there was still cancer on both sides, which meant that even more of my eyelid had to go. For a few minutes faith receded and self-pity rose it’s ugly head. Again, my only recourse was to think about Christ—specifically that beautiful first question of the Heidelberg Catechism that my only comfort in life and death is that I belong to Him.
  5. Faith and false submission are often hard to discern apart. When word came back that I would need a nearly unprecedented fourth extraction, I felt nothing but submission, but it was a mixed submission. On the one hand, I felt like I could surrender all into Christ’s hands but at the same time I felt rather numb and stoical. I gave up the battle but that surrender was not pure in its motivation. Once more I had to flee to Christ for help and forgiveness in all my unworthiness.
  6. Despite faith’s activity, God’s deliverance is often like a beautiful surprise. The one time I expected the nurses to come back into the waiting room and say, “You still need more taken,” was when she said, “You can go to the plastic surgeon now!” I was so surprised that I had to ask her to repeat it. God’s goodness overwhelmed me, though I knew the road before us was not an easy one.
  7. Meditating on Christ is by far our most important help in days of affliction. The fact that He has suffered and died for me, is always interceding for me, never allows me out of His perfect high priestly eye, and has perfect plans and goals for me so as to wean me from this world and ripen me for glory helped more than anything else to make me submissive throughout this day more than anything else. Most helpful of all was this thought: if Christ was submissive while going through far worse sufferings for me as an unworthy sinner, why should I not be submissive to Him when His providence is leading me through trials for His glory and my good?
  8. A God-fearing spouse to support you and help you pray your way through a day of surgeries is a priceless gift. My Queen’s prayers with me throughout the day’s waves of disappointment, together with her periodical comments, “It is going to be OK, honey,” and “God will help you through this,” together with meant more to me than sermons at this point.
  9. The prayers of believers are also a remarkable support, both in person and through electronic media, particularly when they briefly stress one or two of God’s sweet and powerful promises. Each time we would go back to the waiting room after another layer of cancer was removed, we would pray, meditate, and then open up email and Facebook to find new prayers waiting for us. The love and help we felt from this—often coming from people who I have often visited in time of need—is beyond words. The communion of saints is sweet.
  10. Kindness, touch, and clear communication are significant human helps in distress. In both offices, the doctors and nurses were remarkably kind and empathetic, and also used touch in a non-flirtatious way, such as rubbing the shoulder empathetically while speaking to me. Their clear, honest communication was also a great help. For example, just before I went into surgery, my plastic surgeon, whom I had only met once before, assured me that though the stitched procedure was necessary and not pleasant, she had done a goodly number of these and believed it would turn out well long-term. She did a great job of encouraging me to meditate on long-term benefit rather short-term discomfort. She also gladly let me pray for her and thanked me warmly for doing so. After the surgery, she was very reassuring again, and told me exactly what to expect, and made clear she was available at any time to address any complications that might arise.

In conclusion, let me say that it is good for a minister to be on the receiving end of surgeries. Over the last four decades, I have had the privilege of visiting more than 5,000 parishioners in the hospital. Being on the receiving end makes one realize more strongly than ever how important bedside manners and words and prayers are on the part of physicians, ministers, and nurses.

It also gives me renewed respect and love for those who have had to face larger, more life–threatening illnesses and to reflect on their acquiescence. Their trials have a way of making us face our own mortality and the need to prepare to meet our God.

Well, the 20-minute ice-packs on and 20-minute ice-packs off over the next few days should give me more time for reflection, but I pray that these ten reflections may be of some help to all of us now.

 

 

 

 

 

Highway of Holiness

I invite you to join me at the Highway of Holiness conference on October 29–31. Here are some of my thoughts on holiness that the brethren at the NCFIC recorded on video.

The Definition of Holiness from NCFIC on Vimeo.

The Works of William Perkins