Gerald R.Ford and the PRC Synod of 1961

Ford Museum celebrates anniversary of president’s birth; new exhibition opens today |

Gerald_FordAs many of you will know, Former U.S. Congressman and later U.S. President Gerald R. Ford (38th, serving from 1974-77; and prior to that 40th Vice-president serving under Pres.R.Nixon from 1973-74) is buried on the grounds of the presidential museum that bears his name (maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration), along the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. You may also know that Ford’s presidential library is located in Ann Arbor, MI on the campus of the University of Michigan.

This past Monday, July 14, was the 101st anniversary of Pres.Ford’s birth (also my father’s birthday – more famous to us!), which was commemorated at the museum with the annual wreath laying ceremony, as the above-linked story on MLive reports.

Why do I bring this up on this Friday? Because I am running a day late with my posts this week and this post is going to be our PRC history/archives one for this week. OK, you may say; but still, what does PRC history have to do with Pres. G.Ford?

Well, here’s the answer – in the form of a question! Did you know that our churches have on record in our Acts of Synod a letter to and from “Jerry” Ford when he was serving as a congressman from Grand Rapids in Washington, D.C.?

That’s correct. In 1961 our Synod took the unusual step of adopting an overture that originated in Creston PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) and approved by Classis East in which we objected to the military’s requirement at that time “that our young men take part in military training and drill on the Sabbath day” (p.57). The overture had three grounds and included a letter to Congressman Ford, as well as his respectful and sympathetic reply (as you will see in the material below).

This matter directly involved Rev.George Lubbers, pastor of Creston PRC at that time, and as you will note, a son of his by the name of Cornelius, known to most of us as “Case”.

Before posting the overture itself, I will quote from the relevant article (39) of the Acts of Synod 1961 which gives the decisions made:

A motion is made to adopt I, A, i.e., ‘that synod adopt the overture of Creston as approved by Classis East.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, B, i.e., ‘that synod send a letter to Major General D.W. McGowan, to the Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps Reserve Affairs and to Robert McNamara, Sec. of Defense.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, C. i.e., ‘that synod send a copy of the above letters to Rep.Gerald R. Ford with a letter of explanation.’ Carried.

Below is the overture with its supporting documents, including the letters to and from Rep.Ford (click on them to enlarge).

Acts 1961-2_Page_1



I find this fascinating. Little did Synod of 1961 know that it would have on its records letters from a future President of the United States! I wonder if his archives (now part of our National Archives) contain these letters. Shall we try to find out?

British Museum’s Wheel of Books Attracts Gawkers

British Museum’s Wheel of Books Attracts Gawkers | Publishing Perspectives.

For our first “Friday Fun” post today we give you this little news item about a catchy book wheel now featured at the entrance to the bookshop inside the British Museum in London (Posted July 9, 2014). A rather novel idea, I say, chaps! :)

For more on the story, visit the link; here’s the first part of it.

All bricks and mortar booksellers need to get noticed, need to make people stop a minute and want to come through the doors. The newly refurbished bookshop at the British Museum in London has tackled this challenge enthusiastically and come up with a unique solution, one that is probably even eliciting the odd droll comment from the famously stern-faced sphinxes in the Egyptian galleries close by.

 Wheel-of-Books-2-510x287East London-based Lumsden Design has created a two-meter diameter ‘wheel of books’ for the bookshop’s window, a structure that has been causing visitors to pause ever since it was installed last month. It stands nearly seven-feet tall, contains 270 real books and looks like a literary version of one of the living, natural sculptures by British artist Andy Goldsworthy, the man who hangs circles of leaves from branches and creates free standing sculptures out of loose stones.

Published in: on July 18, 2014 at 8:15 AM  Leave a Comment  

Penitentiary – A Place for True Penitents

Penitentiary | Define Penitentiary at

In connection with my previous post on the interest in and study of the Heidelberg Catechism by a group of prisoners in Texas, we turn to our Wednesday word feature – a day late, I realize, but I had a busy day yesterday and couldn’t get to any blog posts.

When I recently saw the name of a prison include the old word “penitentiary” (as in United States Penitentiary), it struck me that this word is related to the word penitent (“to be repentant, sorry or ashamed for having done wrong”) and penitence (“the state of being penitent; repentance” – Webster’s New World Dictionary: College Edition). These words are all derived from the Latin, as you will see below from the listing.

repentance-1And while the Roman Catholic Church has robbed the word of much of its meaning with its doctrine of penance and its tribunal for dealing with sinners (see one of the definitions below), we Reformed Christians know that repentance (or conversion) is a vital part of the true Christian’s (convert’s) life. We cannot be saved without it.

And when God’s sovereign, irresistible grace is given to miserable sinners such as ourselves and takes hold of us in the depths of our being (hearts!), we are made repentant! By His power we are turned from sin and unto the living God, so that we are made sorry for our sins and we confess them openly and with shame to the Lord. And in this way, we find the blessedness of full and free forgiveness in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As I read prisoner letters, I am humbled and thankful to know that such repentant sinners who are in state penitentiaries are in aptly named places. For by God’s grace they too are penitents; they know the gift of repentance. With changed hearts and minds, they are changing their lives too. For the glory of God. Let us praise God for His amazing grace – in them – and in us!



noun, plural pen·i·ten·tia·ries.

1. a place for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment, especially a prison maintained in the U.S. by a state or the federal government for serious offenders.
2. Roman Catholic Church . a tribunal in the Curia Romana, presided over by a cardinal (grand penitentiary)  having jurisdiction over certain matters, as penance, confession, dispensation, absolution, and impediments, and dealing with questions of conscience reserved for the Holy See.

3. (of an offense) punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary.
4. of, pertaining to, or intended for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment.

1375–1425; late Middle English penitenciarie  

priest who administers penance, prison 

Medieval Latin pēnitēntiārius  of penance. See penitence-ary

Published in: on July 17, 2014 at 9:19 AM  Comments (1)  

Heidelberg Catechism Teaching In Prison

A few months ago I did a post informing you of a sort of “prison ministry” in which the Seminary has become involved. Today I would like to follow up on this since we have been getting a steady stream of letters from the men in a prison in Texas (Darrington Unit).

HeidCat-1And what is striking again about these letters is that the men involved in a special study are fired up about the Reformed faith as it is expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism! We had sent them twenty copies of it (as contained in our “Three Forms of Unity” booklet), and now they are requesting further study materials.

Since I have a box of old copies of Rev.H.Hoeksema’s work on the “HC” (the original series of Triple Knowledge published by Eerdmans in the 1940s), I plan to send these to them, along with some other “extra” free books I have collected from various sources, including RFPA titles. If you should have any old editions of classic Reformed and PR-authored books you would like to donate to this cause, let me know.

Below are a couple of quotes from recent letters from prisoners in that Texas facility.

At present we have a group of guys who have come together to teach the Heidelberg Catechism in the day-rooms on the cell blocks. This study began on one cell block and has now spread to four. As we realize the way in which the Lord is blessing these efforts we are also realizing the necessity to be able to teach the Catechism effectively on each cell block. We have little resources outside of the catechism itself to guide us in this area. Those of us who do the teaching are all students of the seminary (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which recently started holding classes in this unit. According to several contacts there, Calvin Seminary has also been there to investigate the possibility of offering courses. -cjt) and we have the opportunity to meet each week in preparation for how the following Lord’s Day from the Catechism will be taught. We are hoping to gather a couple of resources to be shared among us in order to aid our efforts (Then follows a list of three titles the men seek. -cjt).

…From your emphasis on the importance of teaching and preaching the Catechism (The men have been reading our PRT Journal! -cjt) we are hoping that it owuld be possible to somehow provide these things in support of our efforts here. Any other direction would be a great help as well (I am thinking that some of our catechism materials on the “HC” might be useful – workbook, etc. -cjt).

And a brief note of thanks from one of the “leaders” in this group:

God has blessed the last sending of the Three Forms of Unity you sent to us at Darrington Unit…. Thank you for your help. Please know that your reformed brothers are doing their work in spite of the Arminian, Baptist agenda here. We have named our Reformed study with the Three Forms as ‘Reforming the Mind.’ The men are growing in the Lord. It is a blessing to watch the men grow. Thank you and God bless.

New and Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

It has been some time since I highlighted a few new books that have come into the PRC Seminary library, so today I selected four that I have setting on the “new and noteworthy” shelf in the library. All of them are recent publications (2013 and 2014). I will simply note them with some basic information from the publisher and also include links for them.

These are all processed and ready for checkout should you decide you want to make use of these for some good summer reading! :)

To find these books and more, visit our online library catalog.

1. Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael Horton (Crossway, 2014; 271 pgs., paper). This is the fifth volume in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series edited by Stephen J.Nichols and Justin Taylor and published by Crossway. The publisher adds this note concerning this title:

John Calvin, a man adored by some and maligned by others, stands as a legendary figure in Christian history. In Calvin on the Christian Life, professor Michael Horton offers us fresh insights into the Reformer’s personal piety and practical theology by allowing Calvin to speak in his own words.

Drawing not only from his Institutes and biblical commentaries, but also from lesser-known tracts, treatises, and letters, this book will deepen your understanding of Calvin’s theology and ministry by exploring the heart of his spiritual life: confident trust and unwavering joy in the sovereign grace of God.

Taking God at His Word - DeYoung-20142. Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway, 2014; 138 pgs., hardback. Our copy includes a study guide as well.). This what Crossway says about this little volume:

Can we trust the Bible completely?
Is it sufficient for our complicated lives?
Can we really know what it teaches?

With his characteristic wit and clarity, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians andnon-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance.

Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage you to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s Word.

Reading Bible with Luther-Wengert-20133. Reading the Bible with Martin Luther: An Introductory Guide by Timothy J. Wengert (Baker Academic, 2013; 134 pgs., paper). Baker introduces this title with these words:

Prominent Reformation historian Timothy Wengert introduces the basic components of Martin Luther’s theology of the Bible and examines Luther’s contributions to present-day biblical interpretation. Wengert addresses key points of debate regarding Luther’s approach to the Bible that have often been misunderstood, including biblical authority, the distinction between law and gospel, the theology of the cross, and biblical ethics. He argues that Luther, when rightly understood, offers much wisdom to Christians searching for fresh approaches to the interpretation of Scripture. This brief but comprehensive overview is filled with insights on Luther’s theology and its significance for contemporary debates on the Bible, particularly the New Perspective on Paul.

Holy Communion - HOld-20134. Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old; edited and introduced by Jon D. Payne (Tolle Lege, 2014; 919 pgs., hardback). Just as Old has written an extensive history of preaching, now he has done so with the history of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed church world. This is a significant work, as these words of the publisher indicate:

All across the United States, Protestant churches have forgotten their sacramental roots.  The Lord’s Supper has often been reduced to an empty memorial if it is even celebrated at all, and the contemporary Protestant church suffers greatly from this lapse.

In Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church, Hughes Oliphant Old uncovers the central importance of Holy Communion in the Reformed tradition.  Beginning with Calvin and moving into modern times, Old pinpoints and explains the most pivotal developments in Reformed eucharistic theology—from the true nature of the communion elements to preparatory services and seasons.  Along the way, he shows that our doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is not merely an intellectual exercise; it has profound influence on the church’s life and operations—on her piety.

This volume is both a scholarly exploration of Reformed tradition and a pastoral call to the contemporary church to rediscover the most potent truths and edifying practices of our Christian forefathers.  In our day of debilitating liturgical innovations, Holy Communion proves yet again that God’s truth on any subject is timeless and evergreen.  Before we can display Christ fully in our day, we must recover a full commitment to biblical worship—in the Word preached as well as the Word made visible in the Lord’s Supper.

Death of e-readers: What does that mean for book sales?

Death of e-readers: What does that mean for book sales?.

KindleereaderI found this recent headline and story to be striking. Are e-readers already on their way “out”?! It appears that with more and more people “reading” on their smartphones (Although, surely they seem to make people just the opposite!) e-readers are already dying out. Such is the fickle trends in modern technology.

Print books and magazines, however, seem to stay in vogue. And I predict they always will.

What about you? Are is the “state” of your reading? What form does your reading take?

Here is one writer’s perspective on what is happening in the digital print world (Slate, June 27, 2014). Find the entire article at the link above.

Tech writers have begun rolling out their eulogies for the humble e-reader, which Mashable has deemed “the next iPod.” As in, it’s the next revolutionary, single-purpose device that’s on the verge of being replaced by smartphones and tablet computers. Barnes & Noble is spinning off its Nook division. Amazon just debuted its own smartphone, which some are taking as a tacit admission that more people are reading books on their phone these days, to the detriment of the Kindle. The analysts at Forrester, meanwhile, expect that U.S. e-reader sales will tumble to 7 million per year by 2017, down from 25 million in 2012.

Published in: on July 15, 2014 at 6:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

J.Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation – Stephen Nichols

The Morning Star of the Reformation by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-July 2014The July issue of Tabletalk focuses on the history of the church during the 14th century, as we noted a week ago. When we introduced this issue, we also pointed you to the opening article on this theme, in which Dr.N.Needham gives a wide view of this period.

In the second main feature article, Dr. Stephen J.Nichols provides a more focused presentation of a significant figure from this period of church history, namely, John Wycliffe, under the above-linked title.

His article is a great survey of Wycliffe’s person and work, and shows why he is called the “morning star of the Reformation”. If you have forgotten who this man was and why his work is so important to the church of Jesus Christ, this is a great way to refresh yourself in getting better acquainted with Wycliffe.

I give you the beginning of Nichols’ piece here. Find all of it at this link (or the one above).

He had been dead and buried for a few decades, but the church wanted to make a point. His remains were exhumed and burned, a fitting end for the “heretic” John Wycliffe. Wycliffe once explained what the letters in the title CARDINAL really mean: “Captain of the Apostates of the Realm of the Devil, Impudent and Nefarious Ally of Lucifer.” And with that, Wycliffe was only getting started.

Wycliffe rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the elements of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper become the actual body and blood of Christ. He was against priestly absolution, he spoke out against indulgences, and he denied the doctrine of purgatory. He rejected papal authority. Instead, he asserted that Christ is the head of the church. And he had a profound belief in the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture. He fully believed that the church of his day had lost its way. Scripture alone provided the only way back. Now we see why the medieval Roman Church wanted to make a statement against Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe has often been called “the Morning Star of the Reformation.” Jan Hus, another pre-Reformation reformer, felt obliged to express his supreme debt to Wycliffe. And though he lived long after Wycliffe’s death, Martin Luther, too, felt an obligation to recognize the pioneering reforms of John Wycliffe. Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, who stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe. Hus, Luther, and the other Reformers were indebted to him. So are we. Wycliffe was indeed “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is author of several books and teaches on the podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

J.Calvin on Psalm 142: David “made known his griefs with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.”

JCalvinPic1For our continued reflection on Psalm 142 today, we also post these thoughts on John Calvin, taken from his commentary on the Psalms. Here Calvin comments on the opening words and setting of this psalm, pointing us to David’s godly example of prayer. May his thoughts also encourage us to bring all our burdens and cares to the Lord in prayer.

1. I cried to Jehovahetc.

It showed singular presence of mind in David that he was not paralyzed with fear, or that he did not in a paroxysm of fury take vengeance upon his enemy, as he easily might have done; and that he was not actuated by despair to take away his life, but composedly addressed himself to the exercise of prayer. There was good reason why the title should have been affixed to the Psalm to note this circumstance, and David had good grounds for mentioning how he commended himself to God.

Surrounded by the army of Saul, and hemmed in by destruction on every side, how was it possible for him to have spared so implacable an enemy, had he not been fortified against the strongest temptations by prayer? The repetition he makes use of indicates his having prayed with earnestness, so as to be impervious to every assault of temptation.

He tells us still more clearly in the next verse that he disburdened his ears unto God. To pour out one’s thoughts and tell over his afflictions implies the reverse of those perplexing anxieties which men brood over inwardly to their own distress, and by which they torture themselves, and are chafed by their afflictions rather than led to God; or it implies the reverse of those frantic exclamations to which others give utterance who find no comfort in the superintending providence and care of God.

In short, we are left to infer that while he did not give way before men to loud and senseless lamentations, neither did he suffer himself to be tormented with inward and suppressed cares, but made known his grief’s with unsuspecting confidence to the Lord.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 142

Psalm 142To guide us in preparing for our worship of Jehovah through Jesus our Savior this Lord’s Day we consider the Word of God through David in Psalm 142. The title of this psalm refers to it as a “maschil” of David, which it to say it is a contemplation or meditation of the psalmist. Being so, it also calls for our careful meditation.

The heading also points to the psalm’s historical setting; “when he was in the cave”, that is, when David was fleeing from Saul and hid himself in a cave (There were at least two such incidents.). Most commentators believe this is a reference to the second cave hiding of David (cave of Adullam), recorded in I Sam.22:1-5, an incident which also provides the background for Psalm 57.

We see, then, that the setting of this psalm is again that of suffering, specifically, the suffering of persecution. And even more specifically, persecution at the hands of those who were in the church. David was being pursued by wicked king Saul, who belonged outwardly to the kingdom of God and professed His name.

And as we see from these words, David was in a bad way. His “spirit was overwhelmed within” him (v.3), because he was “brought very low” (v.6). His persecutors (Saul and his band) were stronger than he (v.6b) and had set snares for him (v.3b). David’s life was on the line and he could see no way out.

Besides, David felt all alone. According to v.4, he had no one at his right hand; refuge failed and no one cared for his soul. It is one thing to be in trouble; it is quite another to stand alone, feeling that all have forsaken you. No wonder David considered his soul to be “prison” (v.7).

And yet, as we see from the rest of this psalm, David was not alone. Jehovah God was with him! With him as his refuge and portion (v.5). With him as the One Who is all knowing: “then thou knewest my path”. With him as the One Who sovereign over this situation and stronger than Saul and his mighty men. Yes, his God cared for his soul!

And therefore to Him David cried and made supplication (brought his needs – v.1), pouring out his complaint (musing, meditation) and showing his trouble (v.2). Trusting in his God, he asked for deliverance (vss.6,7). And confident of the Lord’s blessing, he promised to praise His name (v.7).

From this psalm we learn again how to behave when we are persecuted and in trouble; how to handle trials and temptation; how to hang on to the God Who hangs on to us and Who will never leave us or forsake us.

But above all, we learn to look at Christ, our suffering Savior, Who endured such persecution and the ultimate forsaking for our sakes. In this psalm hear His cry for help as He faced Calvary for us, to deliver us from the greatest prison – sin! And hear God hear His Son and see Him through His trouble, so that He and we triumph over sin and Satan and death and hell.

Read David’s meditation with your eye on Jesus. And your soul will sing with sweet comfort and hope, no matter what your sin is or what your situation may be.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

PsalterAppIf you desire to meditate on Psalm 142 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. To God my earnest voice I raise,
To God my voice imploring prays;
Before His face my grief I show
And tell my trouble and my woe.

2. When gloom and sorrow compass me,
The path I take is known to Thee,
And all the toils that foes do lay
To snare Thy servant in his way.

3. All unprotected, lo, I stand,
No friendly guardian at my hand,
No place of flight or refuge near,
And none to whom my soul is dear.

4. O Lord, my Saviour, now to Thee,
Without a hope besides, I flee,
To Thee, my shelter from the strife,
My portion in the land of life.

5. Be Thou my help when troubles throng,
For I am weak and foes are strong;
My captive soul from prison bring,
And thankful praises I will sing.

6. The righteous then shall gather round
To share the blessing I have found,
Their hearts made glad because they see
How richly God has dealt with me.

And here is the PR Psalm-singing Choir with a performance of this Ps.# from their 2012 concert:

Cherry Time in Michigan

The 3 R's Blog:

Today’s “Michigan in Pictures” picture post has a fascinating story on the “Presbyterian” origin of the cherry industry in Traverse City and surrounding area. I re-post it here for the second part of our “Friday Fun” today.

Originally posted on Michigan in Pictures:

Ready to Pick

Ready to Pick, photo by Bruce

While much of the state is still waiting on cherries to ripen, the National Cherry Festival is heading into the final weekend for their 88th annual event. Their history page says (in part):

French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area. Cherry trees were part of the gardens of French settlers as they established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other midwestern settlements.

Modern day cherry production began in the mid-1800s. Peter Dougherty was a Presbyterian missionary living in northern Michigan. In 1852, he planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula (near Traverse City, Michigan). Much to the surprise of the other farmers and Indians who lived in the area, Dougherty’s cherry trees flourished and soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing…

View original 335 more words

Published in: on July 11, 2014 at 9:51 AM  Leave a Comment  

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