Valley of Vision – “Peril”

Valley of Vision – Peril – YouTube.

As we end the year 2011 today, this devotional seems fitting. It is titled “Peril” and is taken from the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by A.Bennett and published by The Banner of Truth, 1975 (p.101). In the YouTube video version above it is powerfully read by Max McLean. But I have also posted the words below for your continued reflection today. May God use it to enable us truly to throw ourselves “absolutely and wholly” on our “heavenly Pilot”.

As an additional note, if you are still looking for good devotional to use for 2012, this would make a fine one. It is not a daily one (there are over 200 devotionals in it), but it will certainly help you in your prayer life.


Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeared,
and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
for better, for worse, without comfort,
and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
sweetens every fear,
reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
brings real good out of seeming evil,
makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
and to teach me to live by faith upon
thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
give me the name Naphtali –
‘satisfied with favour’ –
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

The Year in Review – Albert Mohler – The Year in Review: The Ten Leading News Stories of 2011.


I have often referred to  Dr.Al Mohler’s blog on Saturday’s when I focus on cultural trends in our society. This past Wednesday (Dec.28, 2011) Mohler provided his readers with a year-end summary of what he considered to be the top stories nationally and internationally. Reviews like this are good, as they help us see the larger picture of what our sovereign God brought to pass in the past year and help us evaluate these events in the light of Scripture (carefully but clearly). And these reviews help us see our own life in the light of God’s global work so that we evaluate ourselves spiritually in light of the swift passage of time and the ever-approaching end of the world. May these reminders of the events of 2011 serve this purpose for us as we close out the year today.


Again, I will provide you with part of Mohler’s list; find his complete list at the link above.


8. Political Frustration in the United States

The American political scene was marked, above all, by a sense of frustration on the part of the public. President Obama and the U.S. Congress shared disastrously low ratings with the American people. Congress played continual brinksmanship with the threat of shutting down the government and President Obama found that blaming the previous administration for the nation’s economic woes and high unemployment no longer worked. Americans grew more nervous about the threat posed by the nation’s towering national debt and both major parties geared up for the 2012 national election. On the Republican side, the campaign for the presidential nomination began earlier than ever, but with no consistent front-runner. All that is likely to change when actual voting takes place very soon after the New Year.

9. Notable Deaths take the Headlines

Steve Jobs, the iconic co-founder of Apple, resigned as CEO in August, announcing that his fight with cancer left him unable to lead the company. He died just six weeks after making that announcement. Jobs’ death became a signal event for the year, with massive news coverage and media refection. All this pointed to Jobs as the symbol of the digital age, the inventor of the iPad, the iPod, and the iPhone. But the cultural attention prompted by Jobs’ death also pointed to the vast role that digital technologies now play in our world and in our lives. Other notable deaths of 2011 included former First Lady Betty Ford, former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, and movie star Elizabeth Taylor, along with political figures Sargent Shriver and Warren Christopher.

10. The Redefinition of the Book and Publishing

Centuries after the invention of the printing press, the book experienced another transformation with the arrival of electronic books (or e-books) and reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle. 2011 may well be remembered as the year that readers had to decide whether to read a book in print, or on screen. Publishers revealed in 2011 that many mass-market titles were selling more in e-book form than in print. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble and Amazon brought out new and very inexpensive digital reading devices. The Barnes & Noble Nook reader established the company as a major player in the digital market, explaining in part why Barnes & Noble survives into 2012 while major competitor Borders Books did not. Borders collapsed and closed all of its stores after a series of failed rescue bids. Meanwhile, Amazon released its color tablet known as the Kindle Fire just in time for Christmas, selling millions. Still, the printed book holds its place — and so do brave independent bookstores. Novelist Anne Patchett and others opened a new independent bookstore in Nashville in 2011, Parnassus Books.

Of course, 2011 will be remembered by individuals in different ways. For many, the year will be remembered for events far more intimate and personal than these major national and world events. Deaths, births, marriages, graduations, retirements, and other milestones mark our years. All of these meld into our memory. Those of us who shared the year 2011 are left with plenty of reasons to reflect, to remember, to hope, and to pray.

Top 10 Education Stories of 2011

Top 10 Education Stories of 2011.

From the Heritage Foundation comes this year-end summary of the issues/events that took place in the realm of public education in the U.S. during 2011. Even though I am a private, Christian school supporter (and a public school supporter financially through taxes, not by choice), the realm of public school education is always a significant moral and cultural issue in our society. Besides, as our children reach higher educational levels, many of them will attend public universities and colleges. And because increasing government control of education has implications for private school education, these education matters are significant for us as Christians too. I have selected a couple of the top 10 from this list; you may find the rest at the link above.


1.  Year of School Choice. The most exciting educational development of the last year was captured by a Wall Street Journal editorial headline crowning 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” In 2011, more families than ever before gained access to school choice options, freeing them from assignment-by-zip code policies that often relegate families to the public school closest to their home, regardless of whether it meet their child’s needs. Now, more families have access to school choice options such as vouchers, tax credits, homeschooling, online learning, and even education savings accounts, restoring their control over their child’s education. In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia either enacted or expanded school choice options in 2011.


5. Administration continues national standards push. One of the more concerning education developments in 2011 was the Obama Administration’s continued push for states to adopt national standards and tests. The Common Core national standards, created by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, have been backed by the Obama administration with $4.35 billion in Race to the Top money (grants were conditioned on states adopting common standards), through the forthcoming No Child Left Behind waivers, and in the Department of Education’s “blueprint” for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. National standards are a significant Washington overreach into what is taught in local schools, and would further remove parents for the educational decision-making process.


6. Online learning growth accelerates. In 2011, a growing number of families decided to take advantage of the online learning options now available for K-12 students across the country. According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, there are now 30 states with full-time online learning schools, open to students from districts across the state. Forty states offer state-run virtual schools, online charter schools are proliferating, and many more families are taking advantage of private online learning providers. Across the country, students are taking millions of courses online, customizing their educational experiences.

Seminary’s Best Books of 2011

Last week I asked the staff and students at our Seminary ( to give me their list of best books for 2011. I told them I didn’t care whether it was course related or a personal title they had read, whether it was theological or just a good novel. I was simply looking for the book they most enjoyed and benefited from in this past year.  I am not going to attach the individual’s names to the titles, though I might give you some of what they said about the book. So in no particular order, here’s the list (including my own):

  • Preaching with Passion, Alex Montoya, Kregel 2000
  • Preaching and Preachers, D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Zondervan, 1972

“What a fantastic book!  Although I don’t agree with everything in it, he does have a very gripping style, and has very exciting illustrations and life examples.  No homiletics student should ever go through the class without reading this book.  A classic!”

  • 50 Years in the ‘Church’ of Rome (The Conversion of a Roman Catholic Priest), Charles Chiniquy, originally published in 1886 by the Protestant Literature Depository (and since then by several publishers)
  • Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume, Herman Bavinck & John Bolt, Baker Academic, 2011
  • Sin and Grace, H.Hoeksema and H.Danhof; RFPA, 2003
  • Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, Theologian, (picked twice) Ron Gleason, P&R, 2010

Concerning this biography (and others like it) we heard this comment:

 “Reading about the lives of Christians who have gone before us is inspiring, and encouraging, especially seeing what tough battles they had to face, and how God preserved them in the midst of those battles.”

  • What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, Crossway, 2011. Some special comments came with this title:

“Why (read this book – CJT)?   Because it knocks in the head the world-transformation mind-set of neo-Calvinists today, and shows that the mission of the church is to preach the gospel, make disciples, and establish churches.   It does not deny the place of individuals in social activities, but even there it shows the difference between what a Christian may do and what he ought to do.   Easy to read and interesting book that ought to be read by anyone who is tempted to go along with the thinking of the last 40 or so years on mission, which is different from the old definition of missions.

  • Profiting from the Word, A.W. Pink, Banner of Truth, 1996
  • Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Church of the 19th Century, E.Bruins and R.Swierenga, Eerdmans, 1999
  • Less Than the Least: Memoirs of Rev.C. Hanko, K.Van Baren (nee Hanko), Morris Publishing, 2008
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010 (Yes, this one of my picks – simply an amazing story, retold in a moving way by a great story-teller).
  • Father and Son: Finding Freedom, Walter Wangerin, Jr., Zondervan, 2008 (another one of mine – a beautiful, personal story about raising a difficult, adopted African-American son and how Wangerin as father learned to love this son with the love of God)
  • The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historic and Contemporary Evangelicalism, Carl Trueman, Mentor, 2007 (If you followed my blog this year, you will know why I loved this book and the “punch” style of this author.)
  • By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic (Kindle version), G.A. Henty (I’m actually still reading this, but it already has become a favorite historical novel.)
  • Chronicles of the Kings (5 vols.), Lynn Austin, Bethany House
  • American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic, Joseph Ellis, Knopf, 2007
  • Treasure Island, Robert L. Stevenson

One of our professors spent the summer researching his family history and thus focused his reading on the history of the Dutch Reformed immigrants to the U.S. after 1834. The following is a partial list of his chosen books:

  • Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Church in the 19th Century (see above)
  • Albertus C. Van Raalte and His Dutch Settlements in the United States, A.Hyma, Eerdmans, 1947
  • The Practice of Piety: The Theology of the Midwestern Reformed Church in America, 1866-1966, E.P. Heideman, Eerdmans, 2009
  • A Voice from America About America, R.T. Kuiper, Eerdmans, 1970
  • Dutch Immigrants on the Plains, P.Fessler, H.R.Krygsman, R.Swierenga; Hope College, 2006


  • And finally, an all-time classic and favorite: Star Eye, William Schmidt, Zondervan, 1961 (also rewritten by Helen Monsma and published by Eerdmans; pb edition by Baker, 1980). I was excited to hear this book mentioned, as I have it at home and my boys have read it –  a great story about the life of a white boy among the Mohawk Indians during the Revolutionary War. If you have not introduced your children to this one, you need to do so!

Note: That’s all – the list is now complete! Now you have some reading ideas for 2012.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 2:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

My (C.Hansen’s) Top 10 Theology Stories of 2011

My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2011 – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

From an evangelical perspective, Collin Hansen, editorial director for “The Gospel Coalition” summaries the top theology stories of 2011. Can you guess a few of these? How about Rob Bell and Harold Camping? Yes, they made the list. And, Tim Tebow (sigh). It was another interesting year in the life of the church and the world of theology. More signs of Christ’s coming: the running of the white horse and the powerful spread of the gospel, persecution, apostasy, false prophecies, etc. Indeed, the Lord is coming, as these stories reveal. Connect to the link above to read the list.

This is Hansen’s own introduction to his tradition:

I’ve never seen anyone else attempt to count down the top theology stories from the last calendar year. After doing this several years now, I know why. It’s subjective, presumptuous, and guaranteed to infuriate roughly half my readers. So why do I continue this dubious tradition? Before we flip the calendar to the new year, it’s sometimes encouraging and always telling to take stock of the last 12 months. We can see God at work. We can see our sins on full display. And when we look back in the archives of human history (see my lists from 2008, 2009, and 2010), we’re sobered to realize that our priorities and concerns often diverge from God’s. The internet tempts us to live in the moment, but “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

So consider my list an admittedly foolhardy attempt—written from the vantage point of an American who subscribes to The Gospel Coalition’s confessional statement—to discern the most important theology stories 0f 2011. Consider it a challenge for you to generate your own list and pray that God might bless his church with the faith and vision to see the world as he does.

Amazing New Library at the Univ. of Chicago

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library: How It Works – YouTube.

Though I used to visit the University of Chicago and Hyde Park area for its bookstores (Powell’s, Ex Libris, etc.) and other facilities (such as the magnificent Rockefeller Chapel), I had not heard of this brand new, innovative library they opened this past year (May, 2011) until I came across it in one of my library newsletters. This YouTube video tells the story of how it operates – simply amazing – talk about the latest technology! Click on the link above to enjoy the video. Here’s the blurb that goes with the video:

The new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago houses cutting-edge facilities for preservation and digitization of physical books, as well as a high-density underground storage system with the capacity to hold 3.5 million volume equivalents. With its soaring elliptical dome and prime location on campus, the Mansueto Library’s Grand Reading Room, which opens May 16, 2011, provides an inviting space for rigorous scholarship in an array of fields.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 11:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

“The God Who Slays Dragons” – Reading with Imagination

I finally had the time to read the next chapter in Tony Reinke’s new book on reading, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011). You may remember that the first part of the book is “a theology of books and reading”. Chapter 6 is Reinke’s final chapter in this section and in it he treats God’s gift of imagination and how this relates to our reading. He titles this chapter “The God Who Slays Dragons”, with the sub-title “The Purifying Power of Christian Imagination”. The primary example of imagery in literature which he sets forth in this chapter is the inspired imagery of the book of Revelation, especially chapter 12 – hence the title. This use of imagery by the Lord, he claims, is “to make us holy”. And this is how he explains his point:

The imagination-stretching images are God’s way of sliding the spiritual defibrillator over the slowing hearts of sluggish Christians. The images are for Christians who are growing lazy and beginning to compromise with the world, Christians who are allowing their hearts to become gradually hardened by sin. The answer is a spiritual shock. It is God’s way of confronting worldliness and idolatry in the church. When idolatry begins to lure the Christian heart, God reaches into our imagination with images intended to stun us back to spiritual vibrancy.

This explains how the images in Revelation are heeded. The images give us eternal focus and cause us to reevaluate our priorities. The images fuel our zeal to kill personal sin, keep us alert to the purity of the local church, inform our counsel for fellow sinners, deepen our love for the lost, make us diligent in prayer, disgust us with personal idolatry, dissatisfy us with worldliness, and stir a longing in our hearts for Christ’s return.

Revelation invites us to see ultimate reality through our imaginations, in breathtaking, earth-scorching, mind-stretching, sin-defeating, dragon-slaying, Christ-centered, God-glorifying images that change the way we think, act, and speak.

To view imaginative literature as a genre fit only for the amusement of children is an act of spiritual negligence (pp.88-89).

I must admit, I don’t think I ever looked at the use of imagery in the Bible in this way. But I don’t think I’ll forget to do so now. This “theology of reading” changes the way we read, doesn’t it? But that’s good – it’s supposed to.

Free Reformed/Christian eBooks – Monergism

Free eBooks.

Looking for some quality Reformed/Christian eBooks to add to your Kindle or other type of e-reader? Monergism has just updated their list of FREE eBooks, and it includes some fine ones. The entire list is found at the link above, which includes Calvin’s Institutes, works by J.Bunyan, J.Edwards, A.Pink, L.Berkhof, and J.C.Ryle. Even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can download a free PC version of the Kindle reader (at and download these books into it. It is a good idea to bookmark Monergism’s site and/or sign up for their email newsletter. That way you can stay up to date on these free ebooks as well as their regular book service, which has excellent titles at good prices. I have a link to them on my blog under the bookstore section.

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 11:50 AM  Comments (3)  

11 New Species Discovered in 2011

11 New Species Discovered in 2011 | Newfound Species & Species Conservation, Endangered & Threatened Species |


I believe I linked to this end-of-year science report last year as well, so this has become a tradition. “Our Amazing Planet” lists 11 new species of creatures discovered this year. Once again, viewed from the “lens” of God’s Word, we see the creative power, wisdom, and beauty of our great God. Stand in awe of His work!.


Personally I found the night orchid especially amazing. And then the bat. Yes, I just love bats! 🙂


Here’s the “intro” that goes with the pictures:


Newfound Creatures

It may seem like humans have explored every nook and cranny of the planet, but there are plenty of places we know little about, and creatures in them we have never seen.

This year, scientists discovered and described an astounding array of new species, from bat’s with funny-shaped noses, to orchids that bloom only at night.

Here, OurAmazingPlanet takes a look at some of the myriad species that were found this year.

Public Disciplines – Donald Whitney

Public Disciplines by Donald Whitney | Reformed Theology Articles at


Dr. Donald S. Whitney is associate professor of biblical spirituality and senior associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

I want to include one more reference to an article in this month’s Tabletalk before we leave the December issue. It is the above-linked article by Dr.Whitney, who has been writing on the spiritual disciplines in the Christian’s life all year. Understandably, he has been focusing on the personal and private disciplines we should practice as followers of Christ. But in this last article for 2011 he treated the importance of the “public” disciplines as well, i.e., those spiritual practices we perform in concert with other believers. Here he speaks of the importance of our tie to the church of Christ. I felt this joined nicely with our post on R.C. Sproul, Jr.’s article on the church yesterday.


I will give you a few paragraphs from Whitney’s article below, and encourage you to read the rest of the article at the link above.

As important as the personal spiritual disciplines are to godliness, the interpersonal ones are just as important. In other words, the Bible teaches gospel believers to engage in some spiritual habits that are private and some that are corporate; some we’re to practice as individuals and some we’re to participate in with others.

So, for example, while we should worship God privately, we’re also to worship God publicly. Similarly, we should pray alone, but we should also pray with the church. A few disciplines are practiced in a private way. But many disciplines, such as fellowship and participating in the Lord’s Supper, require the presence of others.

Connected to Both Hand and Body

Thus, the gospel confronts the Christian individualism that pervades Western culture with its over-emphasis on private spirituality and its view of participation in a local church as optional. The Apostle Paul used another analogy that is helpful here, referring to the church not only as the bride of Christ but also as the body of Christ (Eph. 4:15–16). This means that the gospel doesn’t just place the believer in an individual relationship with Christ; the gospel also places him or her in the body of Christ. So if you are connected to the Head (that is, to Christ), then you are also connected to the body. If there is a living relationship between you and Jesus, there should be a living relationship between you and His body.

Spirituality and the Church

To speak of this in terms of spirituality, there is no Christlike spirituality apart from the body of Christ, His church. Intimacy with Christ and conformity to Christ must be pursued through the interpersonal spiritual disciplines as well as the personal ones. To use yet another analogy from Paul, though it’s true that each individual Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), the New Testament emphasizes far more often that the church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19–22; 1 Peter 2:5). And while there are unique spiritual pleasures to be enjoyed when seeking the Lord in one’s private piety, there are also experiences with God that will occur only when we encounter His presence in the temple of His people.

Have you ever noticed that every description of people enjoying God in heaven is a scene of congregational worship? Our only, but certain, hope of entering into this heavenly worship of God is through the gospel of Jesus Christ — a gospel that not only brings us into fellowship with God but also into fellowship with God’s people. The time to begin enjoying fellowship with both through the interpersonal spiritual disciplines is now.