Knowing and Finding God’s Will – January 2020 “Tabletalk”

TT-Jan-2020On this last Sunday of the month I finally get to posting something about the first issue of Tabletalk for this new year. The January 2020 issue has the theme of “Finding the Will of God,” always a relevant topic for the believer.

While editor Burk Parsons introduces the issue with his article “Knowing God’s Will,” other main articles cover the subject well:

  • “The Struggle to Find God’s Will” by Thomas Brewer
  • “Defining the Will of God” by John W. Tweeddale
  • “Defining the Call of God” by Joe Holland
  • Examples of Calling in Scripture by Scott Redd
  • Discerning and Stewarding God’s Call for My Life” by Fred Greco

For our purposes tonight, let’s reference a couple of the articles to have some idea of the value of this issue and its treatment of finding God’s will. First, Parsons shows us where we find God’s will and what that means in general:

…The reality is that we cannot figure out the mind of God, and we cannot know God’s hidden or decretive will (will of decree), which is His sovereignly established eternal plan for all creation. On the other hand, we can know God’s revealed or preceptive will (will of precept), which is what God has sovereignly revealed to us in Scripture regarding Himself, His ways, and His law for us. The preceptive will of God tells us what God finds pleasing according to His holy character.

Knowing what we can and can’t know of God’s will frees us to make decisions according to God’s Word. When we look to God’s Word to help us make decisions, we learn to ask the Lord for wisdom and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit; to walk by the Spirit in humility and holiness; to seek wisdom from trusted, wise counselors and elders; to listen to and honor our fathers and mothers; to consider our gifts, priorities, and means; not to walk through a door merely because it is open and sometimes to knock down a door when it seems closed; to sometimes just do something, and to sometimes wait on the Lord until our path becomes clear. For, as Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

Then, second, we find some good thoughts at the end of Holland’s article “Defining the Call of God.” Pointing to God’s sovereign, saving call in our lives, he brings out these applications:

The effectual call of God through Jesus that converts us also begins the work of conforming us into His image (Rom. 8:29). That doesn’t mean that we are all becoming more like Nazarene carpenters-turned-­itinerant preachers. It means that God’s work of sanctification in us operates within the guard rails of the creation callings that are already operational in our lives. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, we now fight against sin and pursue holiness. We receive our call to vocation, and we work as unto the Lord with all our might. The husband embraces his call to marriage and loves his wife as Christ loved the church. The wife embraces her call to marriage and submits to her husband as the church does to Christ. The godly child obeys her parents as unto the Lord. The Christian embraces his call to holiness, pursuing holiness in grateful response to God’s grace. The Christian in authority does not lord his authority over others. The Christian under authority joyfully submits to and obeys authority, knowing that God is behind it all. In this way, the major calls of God on our lives—the call to vocation, the call to marriage, the call to morality, the call to submit to authority, the external call of the gospel, and the internal effectual gospel call—work together from creation and through redemption to accomplish God’s purpose in the world, His own glory through the worship of Jesus Christ in the church.

To find the other articles as well as the other rubrics, visit the Tabletalk link provided here.

A New Week Completed and a New Semester Started

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It was a good week at the PRC Seminary, as we started a new semester, the second of this school calendar year (2019-20). The previous two weeks were wrapped up in our annual Interim course, which Prof. R. Dykstra taught on the subject of “The PRC Schism of 1953.” A good number of visitors attended the class too, which is always a joy and encouragement (next two pictures).

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But this week it was back to regular classes, including the second semester of Hermeneutics (Bible interpretation), taught by Prof. D. Kuiper (image below) for the first time this year (one of Prof. Dykstra’s courses, whom Prof. Kuiper is gradually replacing).

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First-year seminarian Matt Koerner led us in daily devotions.

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The other big news of late is the arrival and installation of the new custom library furniture, about which – as you might guess – I am quite excited (giddy with delight!). Mike R. of Bosveld Builders has been making the various pieces in the shop and Mike VO has been staining them, the idea being that these pieces all match the rest of the new look in the library.

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Over the last few weeks the custom periodical kiosks have been completed (see images above), and in the last week the custom library desk and custom patron work station have been brought in. Today the countertops went on, and they are looking magnificent!

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In addition, we had a new piece of the same quartz set in the window sill, so that all the pieces now match – wood and decorative stone.20200124_142954

Some cupboard doors and drawers have to be installed yet (maybe tomorrow), but we are otherwise finished with the library renovation project. It is an amazing new look. I am grateful for all of it, for its classical craftsmanship truly reflects the quality of all that we do at the seminary. May God be pleased to use it for His glory and the good of our faculty, students, members, and friends.

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If you haven’t already done so, stop in for a visit! You might even find a good book to read in the library or bookstore. Don’t alarm the deer on your way in. 🙂

Published in: on January 24, 2020 at 9:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Hollanders in Roseland (Hope), IL

A few weeks ago, bookseller Gary VDS brought over a few more treasures for the PRC seminary library, including another rare book covering the history of the Dutch in America, this time in Roseland, IL (the town was first called Hope, as it reflected the strong faith of the Reformed Christians who settled there). Since I had the flu all last weekend, I took the book home and had extra time for reading. And what a treasure this story of these Hollanders is – I had a hard time putting it down!

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I knew the Dutch had settled early (mid-1800s) in the mid-south area below Chicago (also known as the Calumet area, along the ridge from 100th-120th Sts. and including Michigan Ave., State St., etc., including farther south – South Holland, where my Uncle Menno and Aunt Sadie Smit lived, he being  a truck farmer like many in those early years, and where my wife and I lived for nearly 8 years in the 1980s-90s), but I really did not know this history – certainly not Roseland, though the name was familiar enough. But I am learning a lot from author Marie K. Rowlands who tells “The Story of Roseland” in the packed book Down an Indian Trail in 1849.

The book was originally published in the Roseland, Illinois Centennial Issue of the Calumet Index (Monday, June 20, 1949), but was reprinted with wonderful pictures from various historical societies by the Dutch Heritage Center (ed. by Ross K. Ettema), found at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.

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According to the editor’s introduction, Mrs. Rowlands (author) “is particularly well qualified to write this Story of Roseland…. Of Holland ancestry, she is a daughter of the late Henry R. Koopman, who was Roseland’s first photographer.” But more interestingly, her grandfather “was the Dominie of the First Reformed Church of Roseland from 1870-1877.”

The story begins in the town of Schoorl, North Holland, the Netherlands, where in April of 1849 sixty-two pioneers left on the ship “Massachusetts” for the New World. On the trip over, cholera hit the group and 17 died at sea, leaving 45 to settle in America. The Dutch names are familiar: DeJong, Jonker, Kuyper, Eenigenburg, Dalenberg, and more. So was their faith. According to the author, “The dreary weeks that followed [the death of those at sea] put the faith of these man and women to a severe test, but since adversity always strengthens a strong faith, they emerged far more consecrated. With dogged persistence they argued that, although God had led them through dark waters, He was still their God and would eventually bring them unto the promised land. With renewed fervor they recited the Catechism and sang the beloved Psalms” (p.10).

We’ll return to this story again to share some more of the Dutch faith, hardiness, and humor as newcomers to America.

dutch-chicago-swierenga-2002For more on the Dutch in Chicago area, visit the Encyclopedia of Chicago. To read another major study on these Hollanders, turn to Robert P. Swierenga’s Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City (Van Raalte Institute/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002).

 

January 15, 2020 Standard Bearer – A Fitting Meditation

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The latest issue of the The Standard Bearer has been published and distributed (including digitally). The January 15, 2020 issue is loaded with a variety of articles sure to satisfy the reader. Besides regular rubrics there are also special articles on prison ministry in California by one PRC’s Evangelism Committee and on the organization of a new congregation in the West Michigan area – Unity PRC in Byron Center.

Prof. R. Dykstra continues his series of editorials on the Canons of Dordt and the covenant, demonstrating this time that the promise of the gospel is particular – not for all who hear it, but for the believer only, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. The covenant is always rooted in God’s sovereign, free decree of election – such is his theme throughout this series.

There is also a powerful article by Mrs. M. Laning on communication in marriage (perhaps we’ll return to that in a future post). Must reading for all married couples and engaged couples and those dating for marriage.

Missionary-pastor D. Kleyn (the Philippines) begins a series on “Reformed versus Arminian Missions,” significant in his context but certainly in the U.S. and any country.

The article I wish to highlight this time, however, is the Meditation by Rev. M. DeVries (recently emeritus). He has a fitting text and thoughts for us as we begin the new year and watch new officebearers come into office. His text is the familiar Acts20:28 passage, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood;” and his theme is “Taking Heed to the Flock.”

Our elders, deacons, and pastors have an indispensable mission from the Great Shepherd of the sheep: to care for His flock on earth until He returns. Nothing could be more important than feeding them, leading them, protecting them, rescuing them, and preparing them for their eternal pasture. And yet sometimes we slight the work of these men, because they are mere men, even sheep like we are. Our sins and weaknesses are theirs too, and so we can lack respect and submission to their care for us. But that ought not be. Besides the mandate of their Good Shepherd, it is their nature as sheep that qualifies them to serve as under-shepherds.

Rev. DeVries speaks to this in this article and reminds us of our need for these godly leaders. Consider this section from his meditation:

The purpose of this taking heed to the flock is “to feed the church of God.” The word used here for “feed” is a broader term that has the same root as the word for “flock.” It means to tend a flock, to shepherd. It includes the idea of oversight and guidance. The elders are not only to watch over the flock, but they are to provide for it. The elders must be ready always to exhort, instruct, comfort, and guide the sheep. To do this, the elders must know the members of the congregation – their character, their problems, their needs. They must know and guard against the enemies of the flock. They must see that the congregation is fed with proper spiritual food, that only the pure doctrine is preached and taught, the whole counsel of God. They as shepherds must guide the congregation, sometimes by admonition, always by example. They must endeavor to keep the sheep upon the straight and narrow way. All this care of the church of God must be done with patience, out of the motive of love.

Elders are able to feed the flock of God because they are elders – they hold an office. They represent Christ. They are given the right to feed the church of God in Christ’s name. The power and authority to feed the church of God rests then in the Word. In so far as they speak their own word they have no power and authority to perform their labors. Christ places elders in the church with the express purpose of speaking His Word to His people. That Word is in itself a ruling, a feeding, a guiding power for the sheep.

Thus, by the Word of Christ the elders feed the church of God. That means that in all of their work they must come with the Word! When they have to admonish those who behave themselves disorderly, they must come with the admonitions of Scripture. When they visit the sick or the sorrowing, they come with words of comfort from the Scriptures. In all their care of the flock they must do so with the Word. Only as they do come with the Word do they fulfill their office. Only by the Word of God can the elders feed the church of God. That implies too that as flock, and as sheep of the flock, we must receive the elders when they come with the Word.

Considering that weighty calling of our officebearers, are we praying for them? Are we submitting ourselves to them and receiving the Word they bring us, publicly in the worship service and privately in the hospital or home?

Tomorrow we have the chance to show our love for Christ our Shepherd by feeding on the Word they bring us. That is our safety, even our salvation, worked by Christ through them.

PRC Archives – A Missionary’s 1949 Expense Book

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For our latest PRC Archives post, we focus on a unique item from the PRC’s Mission Committee’s materials found today in an envelope – a collection of expense reports from PRC ministers who traveled for missionary work in the late 40s and early 50s.

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The one we feature is from December 1949 and was filled in by Rev. Andrew Cammenga, PRC home missionary at the time. The little booklet that was used for these expenses is also unique, being a handy pocket-size, monthly “traveler’s expense book” – “Beach’s ‘Common Sense'” – published by Beach Publishing Co. of Detroit, MI.

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A glance at the pages shows various entries for mileage, meals, laundry, and hotels. And special entries for mission labors: hall rentals, advertising, phone calls, etc. And, when you see the numbers, you will realize that they reflect the times – three meals a day for under $5.00! Others showed train and airline fares (including a flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids for $9.37!).

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Another small treasure from the past. I keep telling people when they see all those gray and tan archive boxes on the shelves that they only look boring on the outside. Inside are wonderful tidbits of historic tales! Come and check them out yourselves some day!

Published in: on January 16, 2020 at 10:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday – Is this the most powerful word in the English language?

In these early days of 2020, let’s have a Word Wednesday feature.

A recent fascinating BBC Culture article focuses on the word “the.” Yes, that little three-letter word, meaningless in itself but packing a powerful punch, even a “wow” factor at times.

What makes “the” so special and powerful? Read on, but start with these paragraphs:

But although ‘the’ has no meaning in itself, “it seems to be able to do things in subtle and miraculous ways,” says Michael Rosen, poet and author. Consider the difference between ‘he scored a goal’ and ‘he scored the goal’. The inclusion of ‘the’ immediately signals something important about that goal. Perhaps it was the only one of the match? Or maybe it was the clincher that won the league? Context very often determines sense.

There are many exceptions regarding the use of the definite article, for example in relation to proper nouns. We wouldn’t expect someone to say ‘the Jonathan’ but it’s not incorrect to say ‘you’re not the Jonathan I thought you were’. And a football commentator might deliberately create a generic vibe by saying, ‘you’ve got the Lampards in midfield’ to mean players like Lampard.

The use of ‘the’ could have increased as trade and manufacture grew in the run-up to the industrial revolution, when we needed to be referential about things and processes. ‘The’ helped distinguish clearly and could act as a quantifier, for example, ‘the slab of butter’.

This could lead to a belief that ‘the’ is a workhorse of English; functional but boring. Yet Rosen rejects that view. While primary school children are taught to use ‘wow’ words, choosing ‘exclaimed’ rather than ‘said’, he doesn’t think any word has more or less ‘wow’ factor than any other; it all depends on how it’s used. “Power in language comes from context… ‘the’ can be a wow word,” he says.

This simplest of words can be used for dramatic effect. At the start of Hamlet, a guard’s utterance of ‘Long live the King’ is soon followed by the apparition of the ghost: ‘Looks it not like the King?’ Who, the audience wonders, does ‘the’ refer to? The living King or a dead King? This kind of ambiguity is the kind of ‘hook’ that writers use to make us quizzical, a bit uneasy even. “‘The’ is doing a lot of work here,” says Rosen.

For the rest of the story, visit the link below. Remember, every word counts – definite articles too!

Source: BBC – Culture – Is this the most powerful word in the English language?

The Singing Christ – E. Clowney

The Singing Christ

Their mighty song burns heavenward
And glory shines in sound;
The herald angels praise the Lord
In shouts that shake the ground.
O sing, you sons of heaven’s joy,
The wonder of his ways;
The birth-cry of an infant boy
Perfects his Father’s praise.

Sing, O Jesus, Mary’s son,
The pilgrim songs appointed:
How great the works the Lord has done!
How blessed his Anointed!
Sing in Nazareth, young man,
The songs of Jubilee;
Today fulfill redemption’s plan,
Proclaim the captive free!

Sing, O Savior, lift the cup,
“Jehovah is my song!”
The sacrifice is offered up
Before the shouting throng:
“I come to do thy will, my God.
My body is prepared
To drink the cup and bear the rod
That sinners should be spared.”

Sing, O Christ, up Zion’s brow
From Kidron’s rocky bed;
The pilgrim songs are silent now,
And all thy friends have fled.
Sing in agony, my King,
The God-forsaken Lord;
And count thy bones in suffering
While malice mocks thy word.

Sing, ascending King of kings;
Lift up your heads, ye gates;
The King of Glory triumph sings,
The Lord that heav’n awaits.
Sing, O Son of God’s right hand,
Our Prophet, Priest and King;
The saints that on Mount Zion stand,
With tongues once dumb, now sing.

Sing, Lord Christ, among the choir
In robes with blood made white,
And satisfy thy heart’s desire
To lead the sons of light.
O Chief Musician, Lord of praise,
From thee our song is found;
Ancient of everlasting days,
To thee the trumpets sound.

Rejoicing Savior, sing today
Within our upper room;
Among thy brethren lift the lay
Of triumph from the tomb.
Sing now, O Lamb, that we may sing
The glory of thy shame,
The paean of thy suffering,
To sanctify thy Name!

Written by Edmund P. Clowney and found in The Country of the Risen King: An Anthology of Christian Poetry, Merle Meeter, Compiler (Baker Book House, 1978), pp.50-51. I recently found this nice collection of poems in a local thrift store and started browsing it tonight. When I came on this edifying poem, I thought I would post it for your benefit as well. Fitting for sabbath preparation.

Published in: on January 11, 2020 at 10:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

Potato Salad (Lake Wobegon Tales)

Yes, it is winter in West Michigan and a big storm is bearing down on us, but shall we just forget about that for a bit and focus on celebrating the Fourth of July and enjoying a great picnic – with homemade potato salad? Our location is Lake Wobegon, the fictional town of Garrison Keillor filled with Nordic Lutherans and tales that resonate with us Hollanders, Germans, and pretty much every other kind of nationality, as long as you are Americans.

Here is part of a great story Keillor weaves involving the town’s Fourth of July celebration and the need for simple pleasures – like good potato salad, fried chicken, and sparklers. Listen on and laugh away – it’s good therapy at the end of the week.

Potato salad. Don’t get me started. People are asked to bring potato salad to the picnic and instead stop at a convenience store and get some plastic tubs full of mushy potatoes, salad dressing, and mustard to give it that eerie yellow color. Why insult us? Do you think we’ve never had real potato salad and we can’t tell the difference? Do you think we’re not Americans and don’t know potato salad? Do we look Canadian to you? Is there something Icelandic about us? Potato salad. No big mystery about it. It has hard-boiled eggs, fresh chopped celery, chives, green onions, real mayonnaise, maybe a little sour cream, plenty of dill, and on top you spread some sliced boiled eggs with a sprinkling of paprika. [that was my mom’s version!] The great potato salad makers of the world are passing from the world, and you and I should emulate their art lest this country slide into barbarism and ignorance and decay. Standards must be upheld.

…Every child has the right to real potato salad and to hold a sparkler in his or her little hand and wave it around. What magic, to trace your little arc of light against the dark. Surely there have been thousands of men and women who gave their lives to art, to music, to the gaiety of language, who felt the first stirrings of artistry when they helped Grandma make potato salad, a great potato salad that had texture, had some crunch, had the green onions working with the egg yolks and the paprika and dill and the richness of mayonnaise, which cries out for accompaniment with a fried drumstick, still warm with crackly skin and flaky meat. Oh, this is art, to take the humble potato salad and the stupid chicken and ennoble them with the craft of cooking – and is this not the meaning of our country, to take what is common and make something beautiful of it? To stand on the lawn in the twilight and wave your torch and draw big loops of light and slashes and make bold, brilliant strokes? Happy Fourth of July, everybody.

Taken from chapter 25, “Potato Salad, in Garrison Keillor’s Life Among the Lutherans, pp.156-57.

How to Prioritize Reading | Crossway Articles

Summary: We will often neglect what we don’t prioritize. And book reading is often neglected because it fails to be a priority.

The beginning of a new year is a time to review the past, set new goals, resolve to reach them, and then with renewed hope strive once again to attain those goals. For the Christian, this certainly applies to our spiritual growth in Christ. And one of the ways we grow up in Christ is through reading – reading the Word of God (do you have a Bible plan for 2020?) and reading other sound, sanctified literature, including books, of course, but also magazines and journals and web blogs.

In a recent article published on Christian publisher Crossway’s website, author Tony Reinke (remember Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books?) addressed the matter of priority when it comes to reading. As usual, he has some helpful insights that are worth considering at the outset of this year. These thoughts are actually adapted from the book I reference above, which I read and blogged about a few years back. Here are a few of his words to motivate you to make reading a priority in 2020.

Our reading may not be disciplined, efficient, or fruitful until we read with purpose. Before you begin reading a book, determine why you are reading it.

We will often neglect what we don’t prioritize. And book reading is often neglected because it fails to be a priority; and it fails to be a priority because we have not defined our reading goals clearly. Once we define the purpose of our reading, it becomes much easier to see the practical value of books in our lives.

Factor everything you want to read and need to read—even factor in your fun reading. Then choose books that align with those priorities.

To that he adds these words later in the article:

Having trouble finding reading time? It may be that you need to read more books. Seriously. A curious thing happened in my own life. I discovered that when I began reading three books at a time, I found more time to read. Why? It’s pretty simple, actually. I found that different times in my day allowed me to read different types of books.

I enjoy reading historical novels, but I don’t read a historical novel right after I roll out of bed in the morning. I enjoy reading theology, but I rarely read theology at night before I go to bed. I enjoy reading long epics like Lord of the Rings, but I can’t get into an epic novel while traveling.

Different genres are suited for different times, and having three books from different genres gives me greater flexibility in capturing fragments of time throughout the day. On the other hand, reading only one book makes it harder to find time to read, because it restricts the number of contexts. Let me explain.

And now you had better visit the link below to finish reading Reinke’s article and find out about his great ideas for reading in different places – from the barbershop to the bedside!

Will you join me in resolving to make reading more of a priority in 2020?

Source: How to Prioritize Reading | Crossway Articles

New Year’s Thoughts: “…Rebellious people who must live in God’s presence.”

Yes, God’s children are rebellious until the day they die. But when they first recognize that Jesus is tugging at them, they know by that tugging that they are rebellious people who must live in God’s presence. Living with God! Above! in the Father’s house! Willingly! In one of the many rooms that Jesus will have already prepared!

But for now they are still living in that hidden Zion, in the house of God that constitutes the church. In sweet communion! Enfolded in that secret fellowship of the redeemed! No longer living along with the world, but dwelling with God!

Yet, how?

In such a way that the Lord of the house could freely throw open all the doors, could dismiss the watchmen, and could loosen all ties to it! But look, if the Lord God did that, as terrible as it is to admit this, then all God’s children who had not yet walked through the gates of death would scamper their way out of God’s holy dwelling and fall into ruin. They know they would!

And just because they know that, and because they find it so horrifying should they lose touch with their God, they don’t say, ‘O my Lord, I love you so much and am so confident of my situation that I know you are capable of overlooking everything and that I will still dwell in your presence!’ No, they say just the opposite: ‘O my God and Father continue to uphold me. Let your watchmen stay alert so that I do not slip away. Don’t loosen the bands of your everlasting love, for things are good only in your presence. Only with you are things wonderful! Glorious! But my own heart would mislead me and my fleshly appetites would kill me. Like a sheep, I have so often wandered off and looked around instead of staying with you as your child. Show me your favor. In your grace, favor me by living in my heart.’

The Savior hears that prayer!

And when he sees that we are rebellious and would like to flee from God but still want to live in fellowship with him, he comes with his reassuring promise:

I have determined for the people’s comfort
that even my conflicted children
will always live near to God [lines from a Dutch hymn].

Then he accomplishes it. He does what he promises. The outcome is that your rebellious soul is still living and keeps on living in the presence of your God.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.290-91.

This particular meditation (#88 of Volume 1) is titled “Even the Rebellious Live in Your Presence” and is based on Psalm 68:18, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” The Dutch version (translated) has that last part as, “Yes, even the rebellious live in your presence, O Lord my God,” hence the title that Kuyper gave to the meditation.