New Seminary Driveway Progress Update

Last week Thursday (Yes, a mere week ago!) we started to report on the progress being made on the new PRC Seminary driveway project. Well, as you will see from the pictures today, we have come a long way in a week!

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Lots of sand was brought in!

Lots of sand was brought in!

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As of yesterday, the base coat of new asphalt is down. Next week the electrical will be run for the driveway lights and the new sign, the landscaping will get started, and underground sprinkling will be installed, among other things. Once all is in place, the old driveway will be torn up and replaced with nice grass. Plus, our new city water line is in the building – it just needs to be connected yet.

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And though our privacy has been compromised a little with the opening to the south, the view is still fantastic and the deer and wild turkeys are still around. What’s to say about the new driveway and expanded parking lot? Let’s just say that they will be greatly appreciated! Especially in the winter! :)

Thanks to our all contractors and to our project manager for a great week of progress!

Published in: on May 22, 2015 at 5:26 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Library for the Birds | Book Patrol

A Library for the Birds | Book Patrol.

After a brief recess from work and blogging (hitting a little white ball around for a few days with some men from church :) – and then playing “catch up” for a day), we return today with a post about this clever bird feeder known as a “library for the birds.”

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Book Patrol carried this feature on Tuesday of this week (May 19, 2015) and I judge it worthy of a “Friday Fun” post.

Below is a brief note about its origin and location; the picture reveals one of the feathery patrons. If you visit the link above, you will even find a short video of another visitor to this “library.”

Earlier this month a library for the birds opened in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The brainchild of Rebecca Flowers and Kevin Cwalina, The Belmont Public Library for the Birds opened May 2nd with a grand opening “complete with registering birds for library cards.”

Their slogan is ‘Belmont Public Library for the birds: feeding the bird brains of Virginia,’” and from the looks of it it has been a busy place.

Looks like a great idea to me! Have a great Friday! Hope you are able to down a few “seeds of knowledge” while reading this weekend! :)

Published in: on May 22, 2015 at 6:25 AM  Leave a Comment  

Doctrine and the Necessity of Creeds – May “Tabletalk”

TT May 2015Yesterday before worship services I read two more articles in this month’s Tabletalk, which has the theme of “Doctrine for All of Life.”

The first is by Robert Rothwell, an associate editor of Tabletalk. His article is “Where Did I Go Wrong?”, and addresses the importance of Christians standing with the church of all ages when it comes to embracing sound doctrine.

This is how he opens his treatment of this subject:

It’s a thrilling episode—Martin Luther, standing before the Diet of Worms, the only faithful Christian in his day, proclaiming his God-given right to read the Bible however he saw fit: “Unless I am convinced by my self-determined understanding of Scripture, I will not recant. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Obviously, I’ve embellished the account. No historically informed Protestant would say outright that Luther was the only faithful believer in His day. Neither would an informed Protestant confess that Luther’s protest came from his private reading of Scripture apart from the work of his theological forefathers and contemporaries.

Yet I fear that the way many people tell Luther’s story betrays an implicit belief that the German Reformer was a mad individualist for whom the supreme arbiter of truth was his own opinion and who sought to turn the church into a collection of like-minded individuals with no theological authority over its members. But while Luther’s work was driven in large measure by his quest for a personal assurance of salvation, he was not a radical individualist. Luther certainly didn’t endorse the belief that we should have “no creed but the Bible” or that the work of studying and formulating doctrine is left up to the individual.

And later he adds this:

God never meant for us to study doctrine as isolated individuals. The study and formulation of doctrine is first and foremost a communal doctrine. After all, the Lord revealed Himself to a corporate body. The Bible is not written just to me personally but to all the saints of God. Thus, God designed us to plumb the depths of His revelation together as individual congregations and larger church assemblies. There should be no such thing as autonomous doctrinal study, but we should examine doctrine in concert with our forebears and contemporaries. We should read their works, check our reading of Scripture against theirs, and doubt our conclusions if no one else has reached them. In this, the reformers are our model. Though they affirmed the Bible as the sole infallible source of doctrine, they understood the proper role of God’s corporate people in knowing His truth. They charged that the medieval church had abandoned the best of its earlier thinking, but did not say that we should cast off all who studied Scripture before us.

The second article I read is this one by Dr. David W. Hall, titled “Why Creeds and Confessions?” You would do well to read his contribution as well. Here are a few paragraphs to get you  started:

As Christians, we must embrace a mature biblical norm of confessing our faith. Let me offer briefly five reasons why a written confession is helpful:

First, written confessions represent maturity. A confessional communion is more than fly-by-night. It is relatively easy to produce a personal statement of faith or a position paper on a narrow subject. However, only those confessions that are tested by many generations endure. Just as yesterday’s pop music hardly inspires anymore, so a transient confession is slightly embarrassing. But classic creeds, produced by seasoned Christians, stand the test of time. a confession is a mature, proven set of beliefs. Wouldn’t you rather be guided by such a statement than by an ill-defined set of beliefs or an immature statement of faith?

Second, written confessions keep believers from having to reinvent the wheel. Creeds and confessions can put the student at the head of the class in a hurry. If one need not formulate every bit of doctrine himself, that is, if he is humble enough to listen quickly to other saints (James 1:19), he can spare himself considerable time and countless dead ends. He will avoid paths that are “useless to further reconnoiter,” as theologian Abraham Kuyper recognized.

How Do We Renew Our First Love and Drive Out Worldliness? – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonToday I read chapter 49 in Sinclair Ferguson’s collection of essays on the Christian life titled In Christ Alone. This forty-ninth chapter has the heading “Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection”, and in it Ferguson takes off from the famous but forgotten (probably by several generations now) sermon of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

The question Ferguson faces and answers is the one I have placed in the heading to this post. Every Christian faces the reality in his life that he is not as inflamed by the gospel as he once was, resulting in a fresh wave of worldliness in one’s life. So how do we overcome this and renew our first love?

Ferguson’s counsel on this point is wise and simple. I pray that it also helps give you guidance in what is a frustrating reality in our lives as God’s children.

How can we recover the new affection for Christ and His kingdom that once so powerfully impacted our lifelong worldliness and caused us to crucify ‘the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Gal.5:24)?

What was it that created that first love? Do you remember? It was our discovery of Christ’s grace in the realization of our own sin.

We are not naturally capable of loving God for Himself; indeed, we hate Him. But in discovering this about ourselves, and in learning of the Lord’s supernatural love for us, love for the Father was born. Forgiven much, we loved much (Luke 7:47). We rejoiced in the hope of glory, in suffering, even in God Himself (Rom.5:2, 2, 11). This new affection seemed first to overtake our worldliness, then to master it. Spiritual realities – Christ, grace, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, living for the glory of God – filled our vision and seemed so large, so desirable, that other things by comparison seemed to shrink in size and become bland to the taste.

The way in which we maintain ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’ is the same as the way we first discovered it. Only when grace is still ‘amaz- ing’ – when we return to Christ and the cross where God’s love for us was demonstrated to us (Rom.5:8) – does it retain its power in us. Only as we retain a sense of our own profound sinfulness can we retain a sense of the graciousness of grace.

Many of us share Cowper’s sad questions:

Where is the blessedness I knew,
when first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?

Let us remember the height from which we have fallen, repent, and return to those first things (Rev.2:5). Kindle ed.

Ascension Thoughts: Seeing Jesus Crowned – Rev.M.De Vries

The May 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out, and the meditation this time focuses our attention on the glorification of Jesus Christ in His ascension to heaven and sitting at God’s right hand. Rev.Michael DeVries, pastor of Kalamazoo PRC, is the author of this instructive and comforting article.

To view more of the content of this latest issue of the “SB”, click on the image to the left. For information about subscribing to this solidly Reformed periodical published by the RFPA, visit the link above.

Here are a few of Rev.M. DeVries’ thoughts on the glory of our ascended Savior-King:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9

Like the multitudes of Jesus’ day many today want an earthly Jesus who will satisfy their carnal desires by creating an earthly kingdom of peace and prosperity. They minimize and ignore His ascension and its significance. But by grace we rejoice in the ascension and exaltation of Christ. We see how necessary it was for the salvation of the church. We understand that were Christ to have remained here on this earth, His coming in our flesh would contain no advantage for us at all.

But even more, by faith we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor at God’s right hand! No, we could not be there with the disciples to see this side of the ascension. But by faith we see Christ exalted on the glorious, heavenly side! We behold His coronation and see Him set at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, (Ephesians 1:20, 21). The very sight of Him in His glory ought to fill our hearts with joy and peace. And see Him we do according to this Word of God!

And then, after explaining the nature of this exaltation and its purpose in the plan of God for our salvation, Rev. DeVries closes a note of comfort:

What comfort the exaltation of Christ affords us! We may face the future with courage and confidence. With the natural eye what we see is frightening and discouraging. For as we note from the preceding verse, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.” We see man far, far lower than the angels, yea, in the depths of depravity. We see abounding iniquity and immorality. We see a generation of the ungodly having apparent control in this world, committing horrible atrocities. We see the faithful church hated and persecuted as never before. We see the powers of darkness increasing in their bold and wicked attempt to destroy the church of God. We see our place in this world becoming smaller and smaller.

…But let us not despair! For we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor!

With the eye of faith we see Him in perfect control over all these enemies of the church. We see Him with the Book of the seven seals of God’s counsel. He faithfully and powerfully causes all things to come to pass which must shortly occur in order that He may return to glorify His Church. By faith we see that we are secure and that our salvation is absolutely sure. Seeing Jesus crowned with glory and honor means that the victory is already ours! We are now more than conquerors!

As long as we see Him there all is well. How blessed it is to look into heaven by faith and see Jesus there in His glory and honor, working all things for our good! Make no mistake, all things work together for good exactly because Christ was crowned with glory and honor for all those for whom He tasted death.

God Is His Own Answer – O.Strachan

TT May 2015This weekend’s Tabletalk devotional contained a fine little article by Dr. Owen Strachan dealing with the only answer that suffering people need. It is the answer of God Himself. You will understand what he means by that as you read on.

Scripture gives us a place to wrestle through the hard things of life. The psalmists in particular ask hard questions of their God (for example, Ps.22). But the Bible has a stronger answer than this. When biblical figures boggle at the realities of the human condition, God frequently directs His struggling people to one theological principle: His ‘Godness.’

We see this in Isaiah 40. The people of God feel abandoned. They do not have clean answers to their vexing queries. In response, the Lord offers point-by-point rebuttal. He leads His people to think afresh about Him [At this point, Strachan quotes Is.40:27-28].

…To a suffering people, Isaiah offers a simple but stunning prescription: God. The people need more of Him, and less of everything else.

…A skeptical age demands that heaven issue a press release when trials come: ‘Explain yourself, God!’ But the Lord does not immediately resolve every dilemma. Rather, He lifts our eyes to the hills. We contemplate His greatness. We consider the depth of love poured out in the death of Christ. We dry our eyes, and we remember afresh that our trials will soon fade, and we will live with this awesome God forever.

Which leads him to conclude with these words:

The human heart asks for precise accounting from God. His common reply is not a flashy sign but a reminder of His presence. In truth, it is not an explanation we need. It is the Godness of God. God, we could say, is His own answer (p.49).

These are good thoughts for us going to our Sunday worship.

The Banner of Truth: Past – Present – Future

Banner of Truth: Past – Present – Future (Part Three of Three) on Vimeo on Vimeo

Most of us Christian and Reformed/Calvinistic book-buyers have heard of The Banner of Truth Trust (“Biblical Christianity Through Literature” is its motto) and their publishing ventures (magazine and books). But they have also been involved in sponsoring conferences for pastors, which some of our PRC pastors have attended in the past.

This is the first of a series of videos (three total – about 5 minutes each) describing the various ministries of the BOT. My special interest is in the books, of course, and that is featured in this initial video.

I hope that you benefit from learning more about the BOT’s work, and that you too have benefited and/or will benefit from their books, which include many Puritan classics, profitable commentaries, and church history titles. If you are not familiar with their books, I encourage you to visit the website link above and browse. And buy, too, if you are so inclined. :)

Let’s Do a Fly-through of the Gum Nebula!

▶ Incredible Hubble Space Telescope fly-through of the Gum Nebula – YouTube.

For our first Friday Fun item today we post this magnificent trip through the Gum Nebula with the benefit of the Hubble space telescope. Below is a rather detailed description of the trip, but it will help you understand what you are seeing.

As you take the brief tour, remember, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps.19:1).

Three-dimensional the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. From Hubble Space Telescope: “The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.”

PRC Seminary History Being Made! New Driveway Project Underway

Today we do not look back (ok, maybe only a little) but forward, as PRC Seminary history is being made while we write. Today the new Seminary driveway project got underway and is progressing amazingly well in a few hours, with excavators and tree cutters on site. Led by Dan Schimmel, the crew has plenty of “PR” presence: Jay Kuiper (excavator), Ben Kuiper (his son and tree cutter), Larry Koole and Jim Schimmel (project assistants) – and many others to come.

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In the last year the TSC (Theological School Committee) has approved constructing a new driveway to the south of our building, motivated in part by two bad winters that made going up and down the existing steep driveway a daily hazard, and in part by the increased traffic on Ivanrest Ave. (large mall to our northwest and a new Cabela’s store to our northeast, along with a host of new stores).

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And, because we were in need of new paving on our parking lot, as well as more spaces, this is also being coordinated with the new driveway project, so that by the end of the summer we will have all new driving and parking spots. All are excited that we will no longer have to fear the dreaded Seminary hill in the winters ahead!

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Along with this project come some other benefits. For the first time in our history we will have city water brought into our facility. Not only will we have better water to drink and use (and with that, no doubt, better tasting coffee!), but also the next time we lose power, we will continue to have water on our premises – a nice little benefit. And, with this driveway will come some better lighting, along the driveway (something we never had) and in the parking lot and Seminary front. We are also working to obtain a faster “pipeline” for our Internet service, so that we will have the capability to live-stream classes and events we want to in the future.

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I said we would look back only a little bit today. The old driveway has served us well for many years. But in another month or so, it will be torn up and turned into nice grass. Can you guess how many years this driveway has been in place? Yes, that would be as old as this “new” building, when the Seminary moved out of First PRC’s basement. So, there is your PRC archive question of the week.

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Published in: on May 14, 2015 at 11:54 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Fighting Temptation (2) – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonThis is a follow up to the previous post, in which S.Ferguson concludes his look at temptation. I repeat here the context of his analysis.

In the forty-sixth chapter of his book In Christ Alone, Sinclair Ferguson treats the subject of temptation, plainly and powerfully, under the title “An Anatomy of Temptation.” The content speaks specifically to men (although women face the same evils and often in the same ways), as Ferguson deals with two parallel passages: David’s fall into sin recorded in 2 Sam.11:2ff. and the “anatomy of temptation” described in James 1:14-15.

I found his entire treatment soul-searching and faith-building, as he warns us about the power of sin within and without. Here is what he says about the fourth stage of temptation:

Stage 4:Temptation unresisted leads to death.

The death of David’s son illustrates the final fruit of sin. Its wages are death (Rom.6:23) – death as the destruction of blessing, death as separation from God, death as decay, loss, and darkness. If only David had asked, ‘Where will these desires lead me?’ But when our desires bring their objects near, vision is obscured. We forget Scripture’s sobering warnings that we reap what we sow, that the mind set on the flesh is death, that only those who put to death the misdeeds of the flesh can live (Gal.6:7-8; Rom.8:6,13).

Fourth Antidote: Always ask where an action will lead you, and what its final destination will be, before you become volitionally or affectionally drawn into it. Live always for the future, and in such a way that you will not be ashamed at Christ’s coming.

Yes, we fail [painfully true!]. But here is a word of encouragement from one who likewise failed: ‘Brothers… if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:10-11, NIV).

What things? [At this point Ferguson takes us back to vss.3-8 of 2 Peter 1, which we would do well to read and pray over.]

And he concludes:

Here is the apostolic medicine for sickly souls – prescribed by one who fell grievously ill but was raised up!

Praise be to the amazing mercy and grace of God! May we weigh these things well, fellow brothers in the Lord, and heed the only wisdom there is – Christ’s.

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