Note to Self: Speak to Others

Note-to-self-Thorn(Recall the last one was “Listen to Others.”)

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

Are you connected to others in such a way that affords you opportunities to speak into their lives? Just as God has put people near you to speak to you for your God, so he has intended to use you to speak words of grace to others. The questions are – are you connected, and are you speaking?

…At times you feel as if you have little to say, or that your words are too simple and not deep enough. But when you doubt that you have anything to offer, you question God’s ability to use you beyond your own weakness. Your usefulness in the lives of others is not dependent on your intellectual or creative abilities, though God will use your talents whatever they are. Your usefulness to God and his people is connected with your dependence on God and his Word and your love for his people.

The people around you need to hear from you. Share God’s Word with those who need to hear it.

Taken from Chap.24 “Speak to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.85-86.

Saturday’s Tornadoes and Our Seminary

On Saturday, August 20, 2016, West Michigan was hit by some powerful storms, which included 2-3 inches of driving rain, fierce winds, and a number of small tornadoes. One, in fact, touched down near the PRC Seminary and caused some minor damage – not to the building but to the property.

downed-crabapple-aug-2016

We lost two noteworthy trees – the last large crabtree in the front and our large apple tree in the back. Both missed hitting the building – the crabtree fell to the west and the apple tree to the north (if it had fallen south, it would have struck the building).

downed-apple-tree-Aug-2016

In addition, many large branches came down in the woods around us, including two near the south side of our parking lot. And there was debris everywhere, littering the parking lot, driveway, and grounds.

downed-branches-parkinglot-Aug-2016

We also lost power for a day, but that was restored late Saturday night already. Phone and Internet were restored yesterday late in the afternoon. So, today, we have returned to normal – for the most part. There is still some cleanup to do and some decisions to be made on the crabtree.

We are thankful that the Lord of the storm (Yes, Jesus Christ marched through our area!) spared us more serious damage and that there was no loss of life due to the storms. But many suffered much more devastation to property (You may read about this at this local news link or this one). We are also grateful for those who work to clean up and to restore essential services in our area.

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Last night, the Lord also gave us a wonderful sign of His faithful covenant Word. My wife captured this on her phone as we came home from church and our daughter’s home through the muck fields south of us. It was amazing!

rainbow-aug-2016-2

Just as we stood in awe of God’s power in the storm Saturday, so we stood in awe of His comforting peace last night. God is great. And good. To His own. In His Son. Shall we praise Him in the storms and in the calms of creation and life?

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Published in: on August 22, 2016 at 7:09 AM  Comments (3)  

Are We Living by the Bible’s Authority? – Prof. R. Cammenga

StandardBearerOur food for thought on this Lord’s Day come from an article by Prof. Ronald Cammenga that appeared in the August 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.92, #19). It is part of the “Taking Heed to the Doctrine” rubric and belongs to a series he is doing on revelation, inspiration, and infallibility in connection with the doctrine of Scripture.

Here are his closing thoughts on the matter of the Bible’s authority:

I doubt that very few, if anyone, who reads this article would disagree with the teaching that the Bible is the supreme authority in the church and in the life of the believer.  We all confess that by virtue of our subscription to the Reformed confessions.  But what about practically?  On a practical level, do we honor the authority of Scripture?  We all ought to examine ourselves.  The Bible says that we are to seek first the kingdom of heaven, believing that God will take care of our earthly needs.  Do we seek first in our lives the kingdom of heaven.  The Bible says that we are not to set our heart upon riches, earthly fame, or glory among men.  Have we set our hearts on riches, earthly fame, or glory among men?  The Bible calls us to live in the world, but not be one with the world.  Do we live antithetically, in the world while not of the world; or, are we friends with the children of this world and run with them in the same excess of riot (I Peter 4:4)?  The Bible calls us to honor our parents and all who are in authority over us.  Do we honor those through whom it pleases God to govern our lives?  The Bible calls us to date and marry in the Lord.  Are we dating and do we intend to marry in the Lord?  The Lord calls us to live chastely and temperately in this present evil world, and not give ourselves to indulgence in sexual uncleanness.  Do we strive to live out of the conviction that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit?  The Bible calls us to live faithfully in marriage; it calls husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.  Are we living faithfully in our marriages?  Do we as husbands love, nourish, and cherish our wives?  And do we as wives reverence, submit to, and assist our husbands in all things?

It is one thing to subscribe to the truth of Scripture’s sole authority.  It is quite another thing to live in such a way that we submit to Scripture’s authority.  May God give us the needed grace to honor this first and outstanding perfection of Scripture.

Seminary Critters in 2016 (1)

It has been a bit since I did a Seminary animal feature, so today for our “Friday Fun” item I will give you a few of the critters we have seen this Spring and Summer.

It is always a marvel to me how much of God’s beautiful creation we are privileged to see in our little acreage here. The heavens declare God’s glory, but so do birds and turtles and deer. Enjoy!

turtle along driveway

Cardinals - May 2016

doe-fawns-summer-2016

moth-sem-2016

buck-doe-summer-2016buck-summer-2016

And, in case you have not seen the nice, new landscape in the front of Seminary (thanks to Brad Gritters and crew!), here are a couple of photos of that, including a stormy sky last month.

Sem-front-summer-2016

Storm-summer-2016

Published in: on August 19, 2016 at 5:12 PM  Leave a Comment  

Holland, MI Suffers Great Fire! (in 1871)

Making mention of periodicals that we receive at the PRC Seminary library (cf. yesterday’s post), today on our history/archive day we can report on the latest publication from the Joint Archives of Holland and the History Research Center of Hope College and Western Seminary in Holland – the Summer 2016 edition of The Joint Archives Quarterly.

Joint-archives--summer-2016

This fine little newsletter is always filled with fascinating stories on the history of Holland, MI and surrounding areas. And yes, the opening article in this summer issue is on the great Holland fire of Oct.8-9, 1871. But there is much more in it too, such as a major article on misconceptions of the religious life of Hope College in the late 20th century.

Did you know about this significant event in west Michigan history?! If you subscribed to the JA Quarterly you would! But you may also find some of the articles online free – follow the link. Or, you may stop in at our Seminary library and browse this issue and others like it.

It’s good to know your history, starting with that close to us.:)

Periodicals in the Seminary Library

As you no doubt already know, magazines and journals make up an important part of a library. That is true of public libraries, and it is no less true of private libraries. Our PRC Seminary library also considers periodicals to be a vital resource for our faculty and students as well as visitors.

Last week while working closely with summer library assistants Craig Ferguson and Kevin Rau, we spent most of an afternoon going through our periodicals, updating our records on them, and making boxes and labels for the new ones we are receiving. That made me think that it would be good to feature this section of our library sometime, so today is that day.

Lib-Mag-rack-2016

I start with a picture of our periodical racks in the library (one of our library assistants will be making magnet labels for the new magazines soon and catch us up on that). Obviously, we cannot obtain everything that larger seminary libraries have, or even all that we would like to have. But we strive for quality as well as variety (with a focus on Reformed Christianity, of course), and I believe we have a very good selection of magazines and journals.

These are constantly being reviewed as well, so that we can weed out things that are not as useful as we thought and add new ones that become available or affordable.

One of the things we do now that saves us money while also enabling us to obtain some good periodicals is to print our own off the Internet. Many magazine and journal publishers are going to this format now because of the high cost of printing, and that enables us to receive them free – or close to it (you will notice we use our own magazine covers for these).

Below are some of the new ones we have added in the last year or so.

New-Lib-Mags-2016

Another way we can save money on periodicals is to buy Kindle editions or other digital formats. Yes, we do have a Kindle (Fire) for the library and I have been loading it with free or inexpensive books for several years now. I plan to make this more available this year and see how much this means is used. I consider it a good option.

At least one of our professors uses his iPad to read some of our periodicals, since when we buy a print subscription quite often we also receive a digital version free. This is another way our periodicals can be used, and, of course, accessed anywhere, anytime.

If you would like to browse our magazines and journals some time, stop in and we will show you what we have. There truly is something for everyone (ecclesiastically and theologically inclined, that is). Just another means to grow spiritually.:)

Published in: on August 17, 2016 at 4:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

Don’t Read Only Christian Classics – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue to make our way through Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we have moved into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we listed a few weeks ago. Today, let’s see what Ryken as to say under Bad Practice #5: Read only Christian classics:

The Christian classics naturally hold a very special place in the hearts of Christians – such a special place that it is understandable why some Christians want to limit their sojourns through the realms of gold to Christian classics. The counterpart of this devotion to Christian literature is to be suspicious of non-Christian literature and avoid reading it. But to read only Christian classics results in an unnecessarily confined literary life.

First, God’s common grace… enables non-Christian writers to express the true, the good, and the beautiful also [cf. my note at the end on this]. Much of the world’s greatest literature has been produced by non-Christians, and by virtue of being great, these works have much that can enrich a Christian reader’s life. To be cut off from this tradition is to be unjustifiably impoverished.

…The point at which a writer’s worldview enters the enterprise [of writing great literature which, first, carries a literary form and style “for a reader’s enjoyment,” and second, presents “human experience for our contemplation”] is the interpretation that a writer imposes on the presented material. As a result of this third task, interpretation, we can deduce ideas and ultimately a worldview from works of literature. Even when the interpretive angle is wrong, we can benefit from encountering the ideas of works authored by non-Christians. We expand our knowledge of the world and culture within which we live. We come to understand the non-Christian mind and life. We sharpen our own understanding and worldview as we interact with alien viewpoints of literature generally and hold the line against them (pp.49-50).

I agree with Ryken’s main point here, and find his comments about interacting with worldly worldviews in the last paragraph quite helpful.

But, we need not ground this justification for reading non-Christian classics (or secular literature generally) in a “common” grace of God. There is only one kind of grace according to the Bible – God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ (and that is not a minor, “picky” point).

What Ryken refers to in that second paragraph above is God’s providential gifts – gifts given to the unbelieving as well as to the believing; gifts to write and write well; gifts to understand and portray the creation and human life; even gifts to interpret life properly (to a limited degree, because natural man’s interpretation of life will always be marred by his depravity).

Knowing that the biblical writers read and interacted with the secular writers of their day (cf. Paul in Acts 17:16ff.) also helps us justify reading non-Christian literature.

Of course, we must be careful in this regard. The Reformed teaching on the antithesis (spiritual separation between the mind and things of the world and the mind and things of God) means the Christian does not fill his eyes and soul with the filth of the ungodly (and there is plenty of this available today that is “off limits” to the believer). But he certainly ought to be familiar with the classics produced by worldly men too.

There is plenty more that can be said on this subject, and perhaps we will have opportunity to say more as well. In the meantime, I welcome your input on these points as well.

Addictions and Idolatry – Edward Welch

TT-Aug-2016The August issue of Tabletalk focuses on the them of “Addictions,” and its articles are once again direct and profitable. Whether you are a pastor or an elder or a counselor, or a believer who knows someone in bondage to some addictive behavior – or perhaps are someone yourself addicted to a substance, this issue will give you a correct diagnosis and prescription. The articles will hit you hard but also give you hope in Christ..

Editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with his article “Ministering to Addicts.” Familiar Christian counselor Ed Welch, author of Addictions: a Banquet in the Grave, penned the first main article, and it is from this one that we quote today.

Welch ties together addictions and idolatry, and when you read his explanations, you will understand why. This is how he opens that section:

Scripture’s most essential insight into addictions is that addictions are about God. Addictive substances become “a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Though it is common for addiction discussions to turn toward spirituality, such discussions do not usually talk about trust in the one, true God, and they do not often reflect the fact that addictive decisions are about God. Though the popular literature on addictions identifies making amends, it never identifies repentance before the Lord.

The Godward nature of addiction is neatly packaged into the biblical account of idolatry. Here you find wayward human desire and much more.

Among the four things about addictions that Welch ties to idolatry is this one:

Second, idolatry (addiction) is about desire. The Old Testament focuses on actual idol worship, while the New Testament takes aim at the desires that underlie idolatry. We are, it turns out, people of desires, loves, and antipathies. Our desires can be good or idolatrous, and even natural. For example, we are to desire or love God above all else (Deut. 6:5)—that is the best of desires. We are prone to desiring what others have, which is a covetous or idolatrous desire. And God’s people were told that in the land of promise they could eat whatever they desired (Deut. 12:20)—a natural desire.

Idolatrous desires typically start from a seed of desire that is natural and appropriate when kept in check. These desires could be for adequate finances, health, obedient children, inclusion, pleasure, rest, and justice. The key insight from Scripture is that these normal and even good desires have a tendency to grow (James 1:15). As they gather strength, they battle against us like an unbound giant that finds little satisfaction (Eph. 4:19; James 4:1). Anytime our desires are aimed away from God, our hearts will be left wanting more.

This change in focus from actual idols to underlying desires immediately brings us into idolatry’s net. Before we consider the more attention-grabbing idolatries of drugs, sex, and alcohol, Scripture reminds us of the everyday idols of people and money. We live for the respect and approval of others (Prov. 29:25), and we are obsessed with personal income (Matt. 6:24). Many of the more blatant idolatries are built on those two objects of worship.

Wise helpers know that they themselves are prone to idolatrous desires and that, like addicts, they come under this rich teaching on desire and its remedy.

For the rest of these points, including the last one – liberation from this idolatry through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, visit the link below.

Source: Addictions and Idolatry by Edward Welch

Published in: on August 14, 2016 at 10:37 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Let the church… emphatically proclaim – always and everywhere – that God is God! H.Hoeksema

Blessed, indeed, are the people who know this God who is God blessed forever. It is true that God is God, and therefore he cannot be comprehended. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite; time cannot compass eternity. But there is a difference between knowledge and comprehension, and comprehension is not necessary for knowledge. Although in the very testimony that God is God the church confesses that God cannot be comprehended, she also proclaims that he is knowable, and that he is known. He is known because he has revealed himself. He has revealed himself not merely as god, but also as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loves his church with an eternal and unfathomable love; who reconciles his people to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; who delivers them from the power of sin and death; and who gives them life eternal in the knowledge of himself.

We know God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and not merely with our head, intellectually, as theology knows him; we also know him with our heart, spiritually, so that we taste that he is good and the overflowing fountain of all good. We know him and have fellowship with him, and we hear him tell us that we are his friends, his sons and daughters. We know him, and in this knowledge we have eternal life. “This is  life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Let the church of Jesus Christ in the world clearly understand her calling and emphatically proclaim – always and everywhere – that God is God!

This is another quote from the very first message broadcast on the Reformed Witness Hour (celebrating 75 years in 2016!), “God is God”, based on Isaiah 43:12 (“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”) and delivered by Rev. Herman Hoeksema, pastor of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHBesides being published in individual leaflet form, this message was later published by the RFPA in book form, along with the other messages in this series on the doctrine of God and another on the doctrine of man that followed it. That book is titled Knowing God & Man (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006). The quote is taken from p.12.

High Tech Shelf Help: Singapore’s Library Robot

This news item appeared yesterday in one of my library emailings, and I judged it worthy of a “Friday fun” post.

Librarians are a sensitive bunch, especially with so many tech geeks and digital gurus predicting our irrelevance and demise. Now we find out that we may be replaced by robots!

Although, I will say, this one serves a very useful purpose – finding misplaced books in the library – an annoyance any librarian would want help with!

So, enjoy this little news item about a Singaporean library robot; go ahead and take a poke at us librarians. But, remember, to err is not only human, but robotian. This cool device will make mistakes, and library patrons will still be looking for assistance from that real, physical, personal librarian.:)

Here’s the beginning of the article; find the rest of it at the link below.

Library holdings are only useful if they’re findable. For print collections at least, even recommending the most relevant titles ultimately falls short if they’re not on the right shelf. However, the process of finding out if things have been properly shelved is time-consuming and never ending, as materials are continuously moved even if they don’t circulate outside the building. The task is often handled by support staff, interns, or volunteers, but Singapore’s National Library Board has a new alternative: a library robot, developed by researchers at the infocomm research branch of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Source: High Tech Shelf Help: Singapore’s Library Robot

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Published in: on August 12, 2016 at 10:04 AM  Comments (1)  
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