Thanksgiving Day 2015 Thoughts

PilgrimThanksgivingOn this national day of Thanksgiving 2015 in the U.S, I share a few thanksgiving thoughts – first, from our first President, George Washington, and then from two “Grace Gems” devotionals of this week.

The Heritage Foundation referenced this Thanksgiving Proclamation of Washington in a post on its “Daily Signal’ this week. It includes a link to the text of this proclamation, which I post here.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

And from Grace Gems came this devotional a few days ago (Nov.23) – from James Smith (1802-1862) [Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:18]:

Everything we enjoy, should be viewed as coming from the gracious and liberal hand of our sovereign God.

All was forfeited by our sin.

All that we receive is by His grace.

The providence that supplies us–is the wisdom, benevolence, and power of God in operation for us–as expressive of His infinite love and unmerited grace!

Our talents to provide supplies,
our opportunities to obtain them,
and our abilities to enjoy them,
–are alike from the Lord.

Every mercy increases our obligation–and deepens our debt to free grace!

Thanksgiving is never out of season, for we have always much to be grateful for.

We must view all things as . . .
arranged by His wisdom,
dependent on His will,
sanctified by His blessing,
according with His promises,
and flowing from His love!

“In everything give thanks!” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Grace Gems devotional for today is also very fitting, from the Puritan Thomas Watson:

(Thomas Watson, “All Things for Good”) – [Based on Romans 8:28]

See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving! In this, Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication–yet they are little in thanksgiving. The apostle says, “In everything give thanks!” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Why so? Because God makes everything work together for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us nauseated–because it is to make us well. We thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God–who makes everything work for good to us?

God loves a thankful Christian! Job thanked God when He took all away: “The Lord has taken away–blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it.

We read of saints with harps in their hands–an emblem of praise (Revelation 14:2). Yet we meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths! But there are few with their harps in their hands–who praise God in affliction.

To be thankful in affliction–is a work peculiar to a saint.
Every bird can sing in spring–but few birds will sing in the dead of winter!
Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity–but a true saint can be thankful in adversity!

Well may we, in the worst that befalls us–have a psalm of thankfulness, because God works all things for our good. Oh, be much in giving thanks to God!

A.Mohler on Keeping a Reading Routine

Reading-2This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s, in which we looked at chapter 15 of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014).

In that post mention was made of the fact that one of the six routines we ought to have on our daily schedules is “reading and development.” In that connection, Perman has a special box quote in that section, in which he references Dr. Al Mohler, who is well-known for his reading prowess and routine (one book a day!).

Today I return to that section and post Mohler’s thoughts on reading as Perman records them on p.216.

Q. What is the most important advice you would give to others on reading?

A. I can’t give just one word there. Two or three. Realize that when you read, you are putting investments in a bank form which to draw, even if it doesn’t appear to  have direct relevance. Second, use your books, don’t just read them. Mark in them, keep a conversation in them. Third, don’t build a book collection; build a library and make it work for you. Fourth, realize you’re never going to read everything. We will die with things we wish we had read. But the fact is too many people do not read. The problem for most is not that they are learning too much, but that they aren’t learning enough.

For more on Mohler’s thoughts on reading, visit this blog post of his.

What’s Best Next: Get Up Early! Read Late! (something like that)

Whats Best Next -PermanAs we continue to make our way through Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), we recall that we are in the fourth main section of the book, called “Architect,” which treats the concept of creating “a flexible structure” in which to do our best work and be most productive.

Chapter 15 – “Creating the Right Routines” –  gives us another part of this structure in which to get our best work done first. Perman sets forth “six routines that can  help you retain balance, flexibility, and enable you to get the right things done” (p.209).

Here are those six routines that should be part of our schedule:

  1. Get Up Early! [Or stay Up Late!] – “In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you get up early or stay up late. The key is that you need a long period of uninterrupted time to get your basic workflow and key projects done. That’s the principle” (p.210).
  2. Daily Workflow – “Basically, it boils down to one hour of focused, uninterrupted work each day in which you can work through a set of four core tasks [‘plan your day, execute your workflow, do your main daily activity, do some next actions or major project work’].”
  3. Weekly Workflow – “Whereas the daily workflow is mostly for work tasks, the weekly workflow routine is for home tasks.”
  4. Prayer and Scripture – “…the necessity of maintaining a consistent time of prayer and meditation on Scripture. …Don’t neglect it” (p.215).
  5. Reading and Development – “…this is critical [I agree 200%!]. …Remember that, as Mortimer Adler has said, ‘marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but of love.’ …You can do more than just read for your learning and growth. The Teaching Company, for example, has many excellent courses on a full range of subjects” (p.215).
  6. Rest – “So this one is simple: take at least one full day off each week” (p.216) [That day for Christians is Sunday, the Lord’s day.].


Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers, and to the Sexually Broken – S.Lucas and R.Butterfield

Source: Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-Nov-2015Two excellent back-to-back articles in this month’s Tabletalk address specific aspects of “The Christian Sexual Ethic” – the one linked above, which addresses the church’s calling to minister both to those who have been sexually abused and to those who do the abusing, and a second by Rosaria C. Butterfield, which addresses ministering to the sexually broken, including those involved in homosexuality – a sin in which she herself was once enslaved before God’s grace broke her chains.

I read both articles yesterday and found them very direct, uncompromising, and yet expressive of God’s love and gospel hope in Christ alone. I give you a portion of both today, encouraging you to read the complete articles at the links provided (see title to Butterfield’s article below).

First, here is part of what Dr.Sean M. Lucas has to say in terms of gospel hope for abused and abuser:

Both the perpetrator and the victim of sin need the same thing: the gospel of Jesus. Those who commit sexual sins—whether sexual immorality, adultery, or even sexual abuse—need to hear the gospel. The entire point of discipline is to confront the sinner with the claims of Christ, to call for repentance, but also to seek new patterns of obedience that can come only as the sinner runs daily to Christ.

Often, those who commit messy and heinous sins believe their sins are too great to forgive. They need to be reminded that “there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent” (Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4). Such genuine repentance is drawn out by the “apprehension of [God’s] mercy in Christ to such as are penitent” (WCF 15.2). How great is God’s mercy in Christ? So great that He sent His one and only Son to die for sinners—and that death is sufficient to cover all our sins, even the most heinous ones.

Victims, too, need the gospel of Jesus: that Jesus is a Savior who does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20); that He identifies with the hurt and broken and grants liberty to those oppressed by sin (Luke 4:17– 21); and that He likewise asked, “Why?” when the pain and godforsakenness was overwhelming (Matt. 27:46).

But victims of sin also need to know that Jesus does more than identify with us in our hurts—He actually has done something about them. Through His resurrection, He is able to bring new life and new hope in the present as well as the future. There is power to move forward through the pain they know. In addition, the gospel provides us with the basis for forgiveness, knowing that we, too, have committed heinous sins against God (Eph. 4:32).

And this is how Butterfield opens her article on “Ministering to the Sexually Broken”:

Coming to Christ is the ultimate reality check, as it makes us face the fact that our sin is our biggest problem. Every day, a believer must face the reality that original sin distorts us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. This distortion, distraction, and manipulation create a wedge between us and our God. We are in a war, and the sooner we realize it, the better.

Sexual brokenness comes with boatloads of shame, as sexual sin is itself predatory: it hounds us, traps us, and seduces us to do its bidding. Sexual sin won’t rest until it has captured its object. When our conscience condemns us, we sometimes try to fight. But when shame compels isolation, we hide from the very people and resources that we need. We whiteknuckle it until Satan deceptively promises that sweet relief will come only from embracing that lustful glance, clicking that Internet link, or turning off the lights to our bedrooms and hearts and embracing the fellow divine image-bearer that God forbids us to embrace.

We sexually broken sheep will sacrifice faithful marriages, precious children, fruitful ministries, productive labor, and unsullied reputations for immediate, illicit sexual pleasure.

We may pray sincerely for deliverance from a particular sexual sin, only to be duped when its counterfeit seduces us. When we pray for deliverance from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, this means that I know the true nature of sin, not that I no longer feel its draw. If you want to be strong in your own terms, God will not answer you. God wants you to be strong in the risen Christ.

The Prayers of J. Calvin (24)

Calvin PreachingOn this Lord’s Day we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on Sept.20, 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Today we post a brief section from his twenty-third lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:1-9, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.8, ”Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.”

…It is then the same as though God was stopping in the middle course of his wrath, and saying, ‘What is to be done? Shall I destroy the city which I have chosen?’ He then attributes here to God a paternal feeling….

God is not indeed subject to grief or to repentance; but his ineffable goodness cannot be otherwise expressed to us but by such mode of speaking. So also, in this place, we see that God as it were restrains himself; for he had previously commanded the enemies to ascend quickly the walls, to overturn the towers, and to destroy the whole city; but now, as though he had repented, he says, Be instructed, Jerusalem; that is, ‘Can we not yet be reconciled?’

It is like the conduct of an offended father, who intends to punish his son, and yet desires to moderate his displeasure, and to blend some indulgence with rigour. Be then instructed; that is, ‘There is yet room for reconciliation, if thou wishest; provided thou shewest thyself willing to relinquish that perverseness by which thou hast hitherto provoked me, I will in return prove myself to be a father’ (pp.323-324).

And this is the prayer that concludes this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that since Thou kindly invitest us to repentance, and urgest us also by setting before us examples of thy wrath, – O grant, that we may not continue perversely disobedient, but render ourselves tractable and submissive to Thee, so that we may not meet with that dreadful severity which Thou didst threaten to Thine ancient people, but anticipate the wrath which Thou didst formerly denounce on them; and may we thus with a pious heart return to Thee, that we may find by experience that Thou art ever a propitious Father to sinners, whenever they return to Thee, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen (p.327).

Writers to Read: G.K. Chesterton

Writers2Read-DWilsonIn a previous post I pointed you to two recent books on reading published by Crossway, one of which I have referenced several times since (L.Ryken’s A Christian Guide to the Classics) and one to which I have not yet returned.

Tonight I point you to that second title, Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf, by Douglas Wilson (2015). Once again I give you the publisher’s brief description of the book:

If books are among our friends, we ought to choose them wisely.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. In Writers to Read, Doug Wilson—someone who’s spent a lifetime writing, reading, and teaching others to do the same—introduces us to nine of his favorite authors from the last 150 years, exploring their interesting lives, key works, and enduring legacies. In doing so, Wilson opens our eyes to literary mentors who not only teach us what good writing looks like, but also help us become better readers in the process.

The first writer Wilson directs us to is the Brit G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton (1874-1936), who was baptized Anglican, left the Christian faith while dabbling in free thought, and then returned to Christianity and joined the Roman Catholic Church. In that connection it may be noted with interest that Chesterton also had a deep influence on C.S. Lewis and his return to the Christian faith.

Father-brown-ChestertonI was introduced to Chesterton while in college and began reading his Father Brown mysteries for fun (I still have that first collection found in a used bookstore) until later on I read some of his more serious works – Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, and Brave New Family. Though no friend of Calvinism (he criticizes it severely at certain points in Orthodoxy), Chesterton is an excellent writer and one who ought to be read at some point in one’s life – even if it is only his Father Brown stories. :)

Wilson points us to several reasons why Chesterton ought to be read and studied as a writer. I give you a couple of them in this post.

     Chesterton once said that a paradox is truth standing on its head to get attention. He was a master of paradox in this sense, having an adept way of turning everything upside down so that we might be able to see it right-side up. Chesterton’s great gift is that of seeing, and being able to get others to see it the same way also. In a world gone mad, a dose of bracing sanity is just what many of God’s children need to get them through yet another round of the evening news. He bends what is bent so that we may see it straight.

When Chesterton writes about anything, each thought is like a living cell, containing all the DNA that could, if called upon, reproduce the rest of the body. Everything is somehow contained in anything. This is why you can be reading Chesterton on Dickens and learn something crucial about marriage, or streetlights, or something else.

The world is not made up of disparate parts; the world is an integrated whole. God sees it all together and united. When men see glimpses of it as all together and united, we say they are prophetic. We call them seers and poets. Chesterton was this kind of man. Not one of us can actually see it all, but a handful have been gifted to act as though the ‘all’ is actually present there (pp.17-18).

Published in: on November 21, 2015 at 7:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

Herman Hoeksema’s Pre-PRC Writings: Social Christianity and Calvinism (1919)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was ordained into the ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in 1916 and was early on involved in speech-making and writing, as many pastors were and still are.

One of his early speeches that was later published in his “Social Christianity and Calvinism”, which appeared in the August 1919 issue of Religion and Culture (Vol.1, No.2).  We have that issue in our Seminary library  (see image below) and one of our Christian school teachers recently called our attention to this speech and article. According to the footnote at the beginning of the printed form of this speech, it was “an address delivered before Corps: Credimus ut Intelligamus of Calvin College.” (That Latin phrase means “we believe in order to understand”, based on Augustine’s maxim.)

relig & culture hh 1919_Page_1

So, we feature it today and quote from it, because it is a powerful summary of how Calvinism gives us the proper world and life view and represents true “social Christianity.” I might add that it is striking how relevant for our times this speech is after almost 100 years. Perhaps we will quote from it further in the future, but for today this will suffice:

…Also Calvinism, holding the original goodness of the world, and still professing that the world as kosmos is not essentially bad but good, being the product of an Almighty and All-wise God, infinite in perfection, strongly repudiates the erroneous separation of nature and grace and always maintained that the power of redemption thru grace is not destined to remain a foreign element in the life of the world, but much rather to redeem that life in all its abundance and in every sphere. Calvinism has always sent its worshippers, equipped with a complete view of life and the world, into all the complex relationships of human existence to claim it for Christ our Lord. The truly Calvinistic Christian is a Christian everywhere and always. In the home and in the church, in society and in the state, in shop and office, in art and in science, in trade and industry, always and everywhere is the Calvinist a Christian, would he be consistent and in harmony with his own confession.

All life and all relations of life he claims must be based on and permeated by Christian principles. In a word I know of no view that is broader in its vision, that is more kosmological in its application, that is more all embracing in its powerful grasp, that is more truly liberating in its power than the Calvinist view of life and the world; and it may safely be said that, if an indictment is brought against the Christianity of former ages, as if it meant to be an anabaptistic separation from the world, Calvinism should straightway be acquitted, and may, indeed, go with a free conscience. There is, therefore, on the face of it an undeniable similarity between this Social Christianity and Calvinism (pp.22-23).

I also enjoyed the nice book advertisement on the back side of this magazine issue. While this Holland, Michigan publisher no longer exists, it once was a popular publisher of Reformed literature.

relig & culture ad for books 1919_Page_1

Digital Public Library of America

Source: Digital Public Library of America

A recent email from Publishers Weekly called attention to ongoing updates at the massive digital library known as the Digital Public Library of America (see link above), so on this history/archive day we remind you of this great resource. In its own words, “explore 11,474,555 items from libraries, archives, and museums.”

You will find something of interest to you there, no matter what your interests are, so check it out today if you haven’t for a while. And, of course, bookmark it so that it is a resource you use again and again.

And don’t forget the bookshelf portion of the site, where you will find nearly 2.5 million books and periodicals in digital storage.

Here’s a video that introduces you to the “wealth of knowledge” contained in this online library.


Man the reader –

This is a fascinating article refuting the claims of evolutionism from the viewpoint of the skills needed for people to read. Read on – closely and carefully – and you will find one more reason to reject the theory of man’s evolution from lower life forms.

There is a lot to absorb here, but it will be worth your while to read it all. I have quoted the opening paragraphs below; find the full article at the link at the end of this post.

Why are humans able to read?

Viewed from a distance, the theory of evolution seems tenable to many people. The beautiful charts showing man’s development from ape-like creatures to Homo sapiens, the anthropological reconstructions of fossil men, artists’ conceptions of transitional forms, and the confident assertions of the ‘fact’ of evolution in textbooks make it seem evolution is a foregone conclusion.

Yet like some smiling Cheshire cat, the ‘body’ of facts to support the theory of evolution is simply not there. It smiles at us, and beckons us to accept that it has flesh and bones, yet when we examine it close up, there is no substance. This is certainly true in the area of man’s ability to read. Rather than supporting the theory of evolution, man’s reading ability points to the wisdom of an Intelligent Designer.

Source: Man the reader –

Now Available! New RFPA Book: Gottschalk: Servant of God

gottschalk-cmeyer-2015Now that the Reformed Free Publishing Association has released their latest title – and a very special one at that! – we can reference the post they made today on their blog.

Here is the first part of that post, along with an image of the cover; follow the link below to find out more and to order the book.

This looks to be one you will want to add to your personal or family library, or give as a gift this Christmas season.

For several years the RFPA has discussed publishing books for younger readers and Gottschalk: Servant of God represents our first effort. This book is intended for junior high and high school ages. Because the story is intriguing and the history of Gottschalk is not well-known, adults will also enjoy this book and find it profitable.

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Now Available! New Book: Gottschalk

Why a book on this Medieval monk? In part, this is how the author answers that in her introduction:

God was protecting his church, preserving her, leading her, guiding her. No, she was not forgotten. God was leading her throughout all of history, sometimes at a crawl, sometimes at a trot, and sometimes at a grueling gallop – but he was with her all along. Such is the comfort we receive from the story of Gottschalk. God preserves his church. As Gottschalk would say in his characteristic way, ‘It is obviously seen brighter than the sun and is more clearly apparent than daylight’ (x).

The book is enhanced by the beautiful illustrations done by the author, Mrs. Connie Meyer (see the sample pages on the RFPA blog post). Throughout are drawings from the times (Middle Ages), maps, and other period pictures of places and people.

In addition, the author has included an appendix with a sample of Gottschalk’s writings. These include some of his poetry and his Shorter Confession. Here is a short excerpt from his “A Hymn to God the Life-Giver”, in which the truth of sovereign electing grace shines plainly:

Thou dost increase and infuse
The faith which Thou dost grant
To whomsoever Thou dost choose.
Still more, Thou cleanest lepers
Polluted in their shame,
Ungodly men are righteous,
Made clean in Thy pure name;
Together with the Father and His beloved Son,
Thou recreatest souls,
All those of Thine elect,
And when Thy work is done,
Thy glory lights each one.

Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 10:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

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