A PR Church Interior – and an Exterior!

Last week Friday we featured a picture of a PR church sanctuary, and you have kept very silent on it. Perhaps because I asked those who knew to do so. I wanted the “knowers” to wait a bit, so that the “non-knowers” could struggle a while and guess.

Well, I think I discouraged participation. Or, because it is Spring break in Michigan and other places, perhaps you are simply otherwise occupied and have other things to worry about.

PRC Sanctuary-1

So, I apologize for making you think you couldn’t guess at all :( . And now I have to simply tell you that that church sanctuary was Wingham PRC’s, in Wingham, Ontario, Canada! It was about time we featured one of our Canadian congregations.

And if you didn’t recognize this church interior at all, then you have some traveling to do! Take a trip to Wingham – a wonderful spot in Ontario and a wonderful body of saints with whom to fellowship! Take in a Sunday with them and you can worship in this sanctuary!

Mystery PRChurch Pic-1_Page_1

For this week’s PRC archive item I feature a church exterior, i.e., the exterior of a former church building of a current congregation. I pulled this out of a PR YP’s Convention booklet we cataloged and boxed yesterday. Those Convention booklets are so much fun – packed with interesting pictures and historical items. Like old minister pictures. And young people who would become teachers and ministers. I will save those fine specimens for another time.

So, let’s have the name of the church. And then if you are really good, give me the year she hosted the YP’s Convention. And if you really care to say, add a few memories of that Convention. It’s ok, you won’t be that old :)

 

Published in: on April 10, 2014 at 1:53 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday: Crocus

In honor of the arrival of Spring to West Michigan, and with it the popping of the first flowers of Spring, our word for this Wednesday is crocus. The flower itself we are familiar with, I trust. But it does have a rather interesting origin.

crocus flowersWould you believe “crocus” has a Semitic background (Hebrew/Aramaic, karkom – with a long sounding “o”; meaning “saffron” and referring to the orange-yellow color)? From there it came into the Greek, krokos, also meaning “saffron”, again referring especially to the color – orange-yellow. And from there it came into the Latin (very common for Greek words to do that!), and finally into our English.

So when you see a crocus in bloom, even if it happens to be purple or white, think of saffron and the color orange-yellow. And if you see such a saffron-colored crocus, you are seeing a “true blue” crocus!

Croci (or crocuses, either plural form is acceptable) are in the iris family and are bulbous (grow from a bulb). I have a few of these in my own flower beds, and always find them such a happy sign of Spring, right along with the daffodils and hyacinths. Besides being happy, they are also quite hardy, as I have seen crocuses poke through lasting snow and late snow and survive the coldest Spring mornings!

Our Creator is good to bring so faithfully the season of Spring again, and with it its wonderful flowers as tokens of His beauty (grace) and goodness. And we are reminded of the love of our Savior for us, as he calls to us in the Spring-time:

 10My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; 13The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away (Song of Solomon).

Here is what you will find at the online dictionary, Dictionary.com:

cro·cus

noun, plural cro·cus·es.

1.

any of the small, bulbous plants of the genus Crocus,  of the iris family, 
cultivated for their showy, solitary flowers, 
which are among the first to bloom in the Spring.
2.

the flower or bulb of the crocus.
3.

a deep yellow; orangish yellow; saffron.
4.

Also called crocus martis, 
a polishing powder consisting of iron oxide.
Origin: 
1350–1400; Middle English  < Latin  < Greek krókos  saffron, crocus < Semitic;  compare Arabic kurkum saffron
Dictionary.com then expands on the etymology with this paragraph:
Word Origin & History

crocus 

late 14c., from L. crocus, from Gk. krokos “saffron, crocus,”
 probably of Semitic origin (cf. Arabic kurkum),ult. from Skt. kunkumam. 
The autumnal crocus (Crocus sativa) was a common source of yellow dye 
in Roman times, and was perhaps grown in England, 
where the word existed as O.E. croh, but this
 form of the word was forgotten by the time the plant  
was re-introduced in Western Europe by the Crusaders.
Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 9:12 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Power of Words (6) – F.Buechner

Room-Called-Remember-150x150Today on our “word” day we return to the thoughts of Presbyterian minister and writer Frederick Buechner on the power of words. These thoughts are taken from his essay “The Speaking and Writing of Words”, found in his larger collection published under the title A Room Called Remember (Harper & Row, 1984).

We pick up where we left off last time, as Buechner is describing the power of words for evil as well as for good, for death as well as for life, something also God revealed in the garden to our first parents, and something we must keep in mind in our own use of language.

But if the possibility of evil is the greatest danger that our ability to use words involves us in, it is by no means the only one. Like any other symbol, a word not only stands for something else but has in it also some of the power of the thing it stands for. To put into words our anger, our love, our forgiveness, our desire, is, even if we were never to act upon our words, to affect powerfully both the lives of the ones we are addressing and our own lives. We cannot hear the name of the one we love named without our hearts quickening or the name of the thing we dread without our hearts sinking.

Words are dangerous because for better or worse they are so powerful, and yet at the same time they are dangerous because they are so weak. They are weak in the sense that, for all their power, they can never say all that there is to say about anything, and the danger is that we are perpetually inclined to forget that.

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 6:45 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Honey for the Hearts of Readers (All Ages!)

I have often seen but never read the books of Gladys Hunt on books and reading: Honey for a Child’s HeartHoney for a Teen’s Heart, and Honey for a Woman’s Heart, all published by Zondervan. But in my last few weeks of book hunting in local Thrift stores I have come across the first and last mentioned titles. Last night I started reading my nice, “new” hardcover copy (c.1969, this is the tenth printing already – 1976) of Honey for a Child’s Heart, and now I wish I had read this long ago!

As an aside, it says something to me that there is no title Honey for a Man’s Heart. Perhaps this is because the very title would turn men off to reading! But we could remedy this with a more manly title, something like Exercise for a Man’s Soul or Food for a Man’s Mind.) I hope it is not because Hunt or other authors who want to encourage us to read have given up on men. As I have noted here, Tony Reinke’s book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011) is a great book for encouraging men (and all others!) to read.

honey-for-a-childs-heart-coverBut, to return to Hunt, I also learned that she was a fellow Grand Rapidian (Grand Rapids, MI) and that she and her husband Keith were involved for many years with InterVarsity Fellowship (a Christian ministry to university students; specifically, Cedar Campus, IVF”s Great Lakes training and retreat Center). An internet search on her reveals that she passed away in 2010 at the age of 83. From that IVF note on her passing, I also learned that she had her own reading blog, with the same title as her book: “Honey for a Child’s Heart”.

Last night I read the first chapter of Honey for a Child’s Heart (with the great subtitle, The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life), and it alone is worth the price of the book. In this chapter she sets the stage for making specific recommendations for reading to and by children. “Bequest of Wings” (taken from a line in a poem of Emily Dickinson) is her philosophy of reading – a Christian philosophy – and it is packed with good thoughts (much as the first section of Reinke’s book contains a theology of reading)!

Today I am going to start quoting from this chapter, hoping to encourage you to obtain this book (There are plenty of inexpensive copies available on the internet.) – whether you are a parent of young children or teens, or whether you are a grandparent. It will inspire you to be a better reader yourself, as well as to be a better reader to your children and grandchildren, so that they, in turn, will become good (and better!) readers also. Read on and be inspired!

After pulling a quote from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and mentioning how young children were introduced to the world of Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet, Owl and Christopher Robin, Hunt writes this:

That is what a book does. It introduces us to people and places we wouldn’t ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, of beauty, of delight and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.

Children and books go together in a special way. I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing God and the many rich things He has given us to enjoy. This is every parent’s privilege, and books are his keenest tools. Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way they they spin out pure joy and magic.

…Children are the freest and most imaginative of creatures. They love the fun of words and have a spectacular ability to learn. We must respect their eagerness and competence by introducing them to good books. I am frankly excited by the potential of books to build a whole, healthy, spiritually alert child who has the capacity to enjoy God and be useful to Him (pp.14-18).

And then follows the quote from Emily Dickinson on the magical power of books, which I leave with you (p.18):

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He knew no more that he was poor,
Or that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy ways
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users | I Love Libraries

Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users | I Love Libraries.

I found this little news item about a recent Pew Center report to be quite enlightening and encouraging. And, based on my very limited experience, I would have to say that I have found the same to be true – those who are already book-lovers and readers are also those who use all the modern means available to access more reading material and read even more.

I certainly would apply this to myself, and I don’t think I am such a “rare bird” :) . I often find that looking for a certain title for the Seminary library or browsing a Thrift store for books drives me to look for the digital version too (If it’s free or cheaper – that’s the Dutchman in me!). And the opposite is also true: browsing through lists of digital titles drives me to look for the print version, if the title is valuable and the library doesn’t have it. And that’s just one example of how the relationship works in my life.

What would you say about these findings? What’s true in your own life? Using modern technology to read more and use libraries less? Or using today’s digital tools to use and appreciate even more your library and its resources? I hope the latter :)

It wouldn’t be a leap to theorize that the expanding role technology plays in American lives would lead to the demise of public libraries. After all, so many other industries, including the one that’s bringing you this article, continue to struggle in the digital age.

When it comes to libraries, though, that theory would be wrong. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively engag

ed with public libraries. The report examines the relationship Americans have with their libraries and technology. Dusty, worn books versus sleek new computers, tablets or smartphones may seem like unlikely companions, but it’s really all about information.

“A key theme in these survey findings is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process in which trusted helpers matter,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and a main author of the report said. “One of the main resources that people tap when they have questions is the networks of expertise. Even some of the most self-sufficient information consumers in our sample find that libraries and librarians can be part of their networks when they have problems to solve or decisions to make.”

The study also found that Americans who are more engaged in their communities are also more engaged at their libraries. But what was surprising, according to the researchers, is that the most highly engaged library users tended to be the biggest technology users.

The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church (1) – Rev.B.Huizinga

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1As I noted here previously, the April 1 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the subject of psalm-singing. Included in this issue are two articles on the history of psalm-singing in the church – one more general (Rev.B.Huizinga’s on the history in the church generally) and one more specific (Rev.K.Koole’s on the history in the PRC).

It is the former one by Rev.Brian Huizinga (pastor of Hope PRC, Redlands, CA) that I would like to start referencing today. “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise”: The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church” was part of my Sunday reading yesterday, and I found his article to be not only informative but also inspiring. And I hope by quoting from it, it will also be the same for you.

Today I quote from the opening paragraphs, which set the stage for what is to follow.

What among men has endured as many ages under the sun as the psalms…the psalms sung…the psalms sung in corporate worship?  Precious little.  Psalmody has seen Solomon’s temple used and burned, doleful children of the covenant marched to Babylon and jubilantly returning, the Son of God incarnate humiliated and exalted, Rome risen and fallen, the mighty wave of the gospel of salvation sweeping through the Mediterranean world, into Europe, over the seas to America, and now to the ends of the earth, always with the bitter death of apostasy following in its wake.  Over the past three thousand years much has come and much has gone.  Psalmody has seen it all.  Psalmody remains.  Psalmody is rare.  Psalmody is not popular.  But psalmody remains.  Because Jesus Christ defends and preserves His church to the end, psalmody will certainly remain to the end.  None may doubt that psalmody will see the antichristian world-kingdom and then Christ Himself—the one of whom the psalms spoke, and that by His own testimony (Luke 24:44)—appear in splendid majesty arrayed more glorious than the sun.  Through endless ages the church sounds Jehovah’s praise—with psalms.

 

The Old Testament Age

The Old Testament church sang the psalms, one of them perhaps already in the wilderness on the way to Canaan (Psalm 90, written by Moses), most in Solomon’s temple (those written mostly by David), and others thereafter.  So much was psalm-singing a part of Israel’s life and worship that when the Jews were deported by Nebuchadnezzar as captives into Babylon in 586 B.C., they were identified as psalm-singers.  As they sat weeping by the river, their proud captors taunted:  “Come sing us one of Zion’s songs.”  Even the ungodly knew what took place in Zion.  Israel sang the psalms.  Would to God Babylon of today would have reason to know and say the same.

If you would like to receive this issue, or become a regular subscriber to this fine Reformed magazine, contact the RFPA at the link given above.

April “Tabletalk”: The Great Commission

The Great Ordinary Commission by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014April has arrived, and so has the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. Last week I continued using the daily devotionals (on Romans – now chap.5), and yesterday I dove into the main articles.

This month’s feature is missions, under the large heading “The Great Commission”. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. And, as he points out, this so-called “great commission” is actually the ordinary calling of the church – to go into the world and make disciples, beginning at home.

Here is part of his introduction; you will find the full article at the link above.

The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

The first main feature article on this theme is “The Great Commission in the Old Testament”, an intriguing article by Dr.L.Michael Morales. He ties God’s call to Israel to be a blessing to the nations to the so-called “cultural mandate”, to the covenant with Abraham, and to king David, showing that from the beginning God’s purpose was to redeem the world, i.e., to save His people and restore the whole creation under its glorious Priest-King, Jesus Christ. I think you will find his thoughts interesting and thought-provoking.

Here is a portion of what he writes:

It is important to understand that only as the anointed king did David receive the promise to rule and subdue the nations. David’s commission was to spread the will and reign of God over the earth—his “enemies” were not merely political or personal, but the enemies of God, kings who had set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. In reality, however, the goal of subduing Israel would prove quite enough. Worse still, it was Israel’s kings themselves who led God’s sheep astray into perverse rebellion and heinous idolatry. The exile was inevitable.

Yet, remarkably, within the context of Israel’s apostasy, God promised to raise up a Davidic Servant who would not only lead the tribes of Jacob through a new exodus but who would also be given “as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). This same Servant, we go on to read, would suffer God’s judgment in bearing the sins of many, that as an exalted priest he might “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:13–53:12; see 1 Peter 1:1–2). Having atoned for the sins of his people, this coming Messiah—the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God—would ascend on high to reign from the heavenly Mount Zion, from the right hand of God the Father.

 

Matthew 28, then, is but the embrace of the inheritance promised in Psalm 2. Yet this kingship is in the service of a priestly office, to usher us into God’s presence through the veil of torn flesh and shed blood. Through His outpoured Spirit, Jesus reigns to subdue and summon all creation to the adoration of His Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28), subduing us day by day ever more deeply that we might learn how to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Music Meditation: “He Was Despised” – Handel’s “Messiah”

In connection with our previous post on the aspect of our Lord’s suffering that involved being spit on, we also post this video of the solo pieces (alto) “He was Despised” and “He Gave His Back to the Smiters” from G.F.Handel’s “Messiah”.

You will notice that also this aspect of Christ’s suffering was prophesied of, in Isaiah 50:6. Every detail of his passion was purposed and providentially carried out by His sovereign Father. And to it all Jesus willingly gave Himself. Notice what that text says: He gave his back to the smiters and He hid not his face from the shame and spitting. He suffered not as a helpless victim but as God’s willing, submissive Servant. So that His whole life as well as His death could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He bore our shame and was spit on, so that we might have the smile of God’s face now and to all eternity.

May our music meditation on Christ’s suffering of “shame and spitting” also serve to humble us and drive us to the cross.

Here is the information that goes with the video:

Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759)

air for alto: “He was despised and rejected of men” (Oratorio Messiah)

Grace Hoffman, mezzo-soprano

The Philharmonia orchestra and chorus,
Conductor: Otto Klemperer.
London, September 1964

He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
He gave his back to the smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked off
the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (4)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieOver the past few Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we are doing a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. During this special season of reflection on the passion and victory of our Savior we are using as our source the little book  Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

Chapter seven (7) of this work contains a precious sermon of Charles H. Spurgeon, “Then Did They Spit in His Face”, based on Matthew 26:67. This verse reads (in the KJV): “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.” This refers, of course, to that part of Jesus’ suffering when he was being tried by Caiaphas and the leaders of the Jews.

I have to remark here that I don’t believe I have ever heard (or read) a sermon specifically on this passage or on this part of our Lord’s suffering. Spurgeon’s treatment of this verse is powerful, pointing us both to the wickedness of man and the mercy of the Savior. I can only quote a portion of his sermon, but I choose that part where Spurgeon calls attention to the power of sin as it lies in our hearts and works in our own lives.

There are two or three thoughts that come to mind when I think that these wicked men did actually spit in Christ’s face – in that face which is the light of heaven, the joy of angels, the bliss of saints, and the very brightness of the Father’s glory. This spitting shows us, first, how far sin will go. If we want proof of the depravity of the heart of man, I will not point you to the stews of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor will I take you to the places where blood is shed in streams by wretches like to Herod and men of that sort.

No, the clearest proof that man is utterly fallen, and that the natural heart is enmity against God, is seen in the fact that they did spit in Christ’s face, did falsely accuse him, and condemn him, and lead him out as a malefactor, and hang him up as a felon that he might die upon the cross. Why, what evil had he done? What was there in his whole life that should give them occasion to spit in his face? Even at that moment, did his face flash with indignation against them? Did he look with contempt upon them?

Not he; for he was all gentleness and tenderness even toward these his enemies, and their hearts must have been hard and brutal indeed that ‘then did they spit in his face.’ He had healed their sick, he had fed their hungry, he had been among them a very fountain of blessing up and down Judaea and Samaria; and yet, ‘then did they spit in his face.’ Humanity stands condemned of the blackest iniquity now that it has gone as far as to spit in Christ’s face.

O my brothers, let us hate sin; O my sisters, let us loathe sin, not only because it pierced those blessed hands and feet of our dear Redeemer, but because it dared even to spit in his face! No one can ever know all the shame the Lord of glory suffered when they did spit in his face. These words glide over my tongue all too smoothly; perhaps even I do not feel them as they ought to be felt, though I would do so if I could.

But could I feel as I ought to feel in sympathy with the terrible shame of Christ, and then could I interpret those feelings by any language known to mortal man, surely you would bow your heads and blush, and you would feel rising within your spirits a burning indignation against the sin that dared to put the Christ of God to such shame as this. I want to kiss his feet when I think that they did spit in his face (pp.44-46).

May these thoughts humble us to the dust and lead us to godly repentance for our own spitting on Jesus’ face in so many ways (as Spurgeon also points out in the sermon). And may it drive us to the merciful Savior Who shed His blood for such sin-spitting sinners.

Biologos, Theistic evolution, and the Pelagian heresy – creation.com

Biologos pelagian heresy – creation.com.

“The Aquila Report” carried this powerful article as one of its “top 10″ this past week (April 1, 2014), but I also went to the original source, which is Creation.com (cf. the link above).

creationvsevolutionThere you will find the complete article, “BioLogos, Theistic Evolution, and the Pelagian Heresy”, written by Richard Fangrad, CEO of Creation Ministries International-Canada. Fangrad makes a significant connection between the old heresy of Pelagianism and the “new” one of theistic evolution, especially that part of “TE” that now wants to deny the historical reality of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

I give you a portion of his article here; read the rest at this link.

May Fangrad’s thoughts show us even more clearly why we must reject all forms of evolutionism, root and branch. Not to do so leads one to forfeit the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, it IS that serious.

Today we Christians find ourselves at an interesting place in Church history. Although Scripture has been with us for 2,000 years (and is sufficient for determining how and when God created), we now have decades of research that supports what the Bible has always said. Today we are blessed with mountains of scientific evidence supporting the biblical record of a recent creation followed by a global flood and all humans originating with Adam and Eve. Despite all of this, aspects of an old heresy relating to the creation account are increasingly infiltrating the Church. This is the falsehood known as Pelagianism.

No Adam: no original sin, no need for the cross

The heresy of Pelagianism (see the box below for details) asserted that Adam’s sin had no effect on the human race, that we have not inherited a sin nature from Adam, and that all humans are born with the ability to live a sin-free life. This renders the work of Christ on the cross superfluous. If we can achieve Heaven without any work of God whatsoever (that is, if we have no sin) then there is no need (it is even nonsensical) for God to bear the penalty for our sin. The reality is that at the cross Christ died for us as a substitute. He paid the penalty that we incurred, in our place and simultaneously transferred His righteousness to us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes this double transfer. The sinless Christ pays for our sins in our place (so that we don’t have to!), and His righteousness is transferred to us. That single verse is Paul’s simple one-sentence summary of the Gospel. The whole Gospel message is contained in outline in those words and is, of course, detailed throughout the rest of Scripture.

Bible scholars at the time of Pelagius recognized the contradiction between his teachings and Scripture. As a result, Pelagianism was condemned as heretical at many church councils including the Councils of Carthage (in 412, 416 and 418), the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Orange (529). The intervening 1600 years have merely strengthened and further refined the biblical truth confirming that Pelagianism is heretical. This rich history of the battle for truth is a great advantage for us today. When Pelagianizing tendencies infiltrate the church today we should simply look back at that history, remember the error of the past, and avoid repeating the same error. Unfortunately, Pelagianism is alive and well today. One of its modern forms, mutated and renamed, is called ‘theistic evolution’.

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