“And I will give you pastors according to my heart” – God’s Promise of Jeremiah 3:15

Jer3-15-pastorsThis morning in Faith PRC our new pastor, Rev.Clayton Spronk (seventh in the congregation’s history), will be installed. And then this evening he will officially begin his ministry in our midst, as he leads our worship service and preaches for the first time for us, after which he and his family will be welcomed into our midst with a special program (our evening service is starting at 5 p.m. today). This is a happy and humbling occasion for us as a congregation, since we waited two years to receive a new under-shepherd from the Lord.

But with regard to the preaching of the gospel, we were well provided for through guest pastors, especially Prof.R.Dykstra (one of our members), who led us through the Heidelberg Catechism and many special services. And with regard to our other spiritual needs, we were well cared for by our faithful elders and deacons, who, no doubt, spent many extra hours fulfilling their offices caring for us sheep. We thank these men for the diligent labors among us.

While we waited for another pastor, we also rested in God’s good promises, including the promise of Jeremiah 3:15 – “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Once more God has shown His faithfulness in fulfilling this promise to us as a church. Our joy is in Him and our gratitude is toward Him.

In connection with this wonderful event today, I quote from John Calvin’s comments on this passage as found in vol.9 of his Commentaries (“On The Prophet Jeremiah and The Lamentations”, Baker, 1979), concluding  with his prayer that closes this lecture. May his words give us fresh gratitude for this office of pastor-teacher in the church, and may it lead us to pray diligently for our new pastor as well as for all our pastors.

We hence learn that the Church cannot continue without having faithful pastors to shew the way of salvation. The wellbeing of the Church then is secured, when God raises up true and faithful teachers to proclaim his truth: but when the Church is deprived of sound teachers, all things soon fall into ruin. For God, no doubt, intimates by this promise that he would not only be the deliverer of his people, so as to restore them from exile, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian after the people had returned to their own country.

It hence follows, that the Church of God is not only begotten by means of holy and godly pastors, but that its life is also cherished, nourished, and confirmed by them to the end. As it is not enough for civil order to be once set up, except the magistrates continue in their office, so nothing is more ruinous to the Church than for God to take away faithful pastors. It cannot indeed be, that people will return to God, unless prophets be first sent: but God speaks here of a continued course of instruction, and of a well regulated government in the Church, as though he had said, ‘I will not only give you prophets to lead you from your wanderings to me, and to restore you to the way of salvation, but I will also continually set over you sound and faithful teachers.’

But we must notice, that those who preside cannot rightly discharge their office unless they are endued with wisdom. God also intimates his paternal love, when he says, that good pastors would be dear to him (181-82).

And this lecture is concluded with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully spared us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.

Interpretive dance: BioLogos and the Promotion of Evolution| Daniel J. Devine | World

WORLD | Interpretive dance | Daniel James Devine | Nov. 29, 2014.

Creation vs evolutionThis is a significant “exposure” article by World magazine and its reporter Daniel J. Devine on how BioLogos – headquartered right here in Grand Rapids, MI – is pushing evolutionism in the name of Christian science on a broad spectrum of Christian institutions (posted today, Nov.29, 2014).

There are some familiar names given here, many of them with ties to Christian colleges well known to us. The issue of the historicity, accuracy, and authority of Genesis 1-3 (especially), God’s “book of beginnings”, continues to generate heated debate in Christian circles.

But it ought not, if we hold to the clarity as well as to the authority of Scripture. Truly Reformed Christianity posits that God’s Word sheds authoritative light on science and determines how we understand the things that we see (and don’t see!) in creation, not the other way around. We need to continue to keep our biblical “glasses” on straight in order to see the world right.

Here’s the opening paragraphs to Devine’s article; find the rest at the link above.

Just a five-minute stroll from the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., sits the brown brick building that is home since last year to BioLogos, a foundation pushing churches and believers to embrace evolution, and in the process change how they read the Bible.

The brainchild of Francis Collins, who now heads the National Institutes of Health, BioLogos has taken in nearly $9 million from the Templeton Foundation and millions more from other donors. BioLogos in turn offers grants to church, parachurch, and academic leaders and organizations that promote “evolutionary creation.”

BioLogos president Deb Haarsma, former chair of Calvin’s physics and astronomy department, says churches that support evolution will be more effective witnesses in a culture that reveres science, and will help college students avoid a crisis of faith when biology professors argue for evolution. The BioLogos website states, “Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago.”

Antiques and Our Heritage (4) – The Importance of Christian Education

Four weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J. Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

Markings on long journey-TimmermanThe first one was the “antithesis”; the second one was “a sense of sin”; and the third one was “the priority of the sermon in our Sunday services”.  His next one is also significant, because it touches on another matter close to our Reformed hearts – our Christian day schools. He titles this element of our Reformed heritage “the importance of Christian education.”

Here is what he has to say on this subject:

The present Christian school system is a monument to severe early sacrifices and stellar devotion, a genuine attempt to provide an education that tried to apply the best Reformed tradition to the manifold problems of life. I have known men who walked a long way to work all their lives, who denied themselves and their families a car to provide a Christian education for their children. I have known gifted teachers on all levels of teaching who declined prestigious and lucrative positions to serve this cause. I have known board members who spent almost as much time in working for their schools as for their business. All was done in the belief that God would bless a distinctively Christian training for their children and a sound factual and theoretical knowledge of Scripture.

So it is with acute dismay that one sees a gradual erosion in attendance and support of these schools. They have given our children something to give the world; when they vanish, much of this unique knowledge of Scripture and interpretation will also disappear. Particularly distressing is the fact that only about 20 percent of our college youth attend one of our colleges. There may be good reasons why 20 percent should not attend these colleges; I can conceive of no good reasons why 80 percent should fail to do so – unless one calls indifference, apathy, or hostility to these uniquely excellent institutions good reasons (158).

I can only add, What would Timmerman say if he saw things in his denomination now? May we listen and learn, and not lose our zeal for and commitment to our own precious PR Christian schools.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2014 Deals for Christians – Challies.com

Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2014 Deals for Christians | Challies Dot Com.

BlackFriday-1Once again I link you to Tim Challies’ blog where you will find an excellent summary of the best deals on Christian books for both Black Friday (today!) and Cyber Monday (next Monday, Dec.1).

And, no, this does not contradict my previous post. As an informed reader (perhaps with Dutch blood like myself!), you appreciate being able to move in both worlds of bookstores to find the best deals – the physical and the virtual. Shop away – and be a good steward of our money!

Pay special attention to Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale today – excellent materials there for a bargain (see link below).

Nothing beats the gift of good books for Christmas! 🙂

Here’s Challies’ yearly introduction to his post; use this link to visit his site for the details. And keep checking back as he will be updating it all weekend.

For the past few years I’ve made it a point to collect Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that may be of particular interest to Christians. While there are many places you can go online to find deals on electronics and other big-ticket items, I wanted to provide a place for Christian retailers to make their deals known to Christians who are trying to kick-start their Christmas shopping.

And the Ligonier deals:

Ligonier Ministries has a good-sized list of books, ebooks, and teaching series at $5 each. Consider R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian, a great value for $5 (in hardcover!). FRIDAY ONLY. Stay tuned for their Cyber Monday deal.

And here’s one Challies did not list but which I have recommended before: Grace & Truth Books – free shipping through Monday – with lots of good children and family books.

The Last Bookstores: Photos from across the country

Bryan David Griffith: The Last Bookstores: America’s Resurgent Independents examines bookstores across the country (PHOTOS)..

As you face the barrage of Black Friday ads today and for Cyber Monday, do not forget your local Independent bookstore for your gift-giving needs. Those stores need our business and support. And this collection of photos of such bookstores from around the country (posted Nov.19, 2014) remind us of just how special these local stores are. Why not find your way to one in your neighborhood in the next few weeks.

Opening in 2008, we had the extraordinary benefit of assuming—This collection by Bryan Griffith even included one of the Bookbug store in Kalamazoo, MI (pic above), one with which I am not familiar. Can you believe it?! Looks like I need to make a trip to Kalamazoo 🙂 A good one in the Grand Rapids area is Schuler Books & Music, which also includes a large used book section and a wonderful cafe.

Here’s the introduction to the photo collection, the link to which is above. Enjoy!

Like the independent bookstores he photographs, Bryan David Griffith is a bit of a throwback. He does have an email address, but if you want to reach him on the phone, you have to dial a landline, and most likely track him down through his answering machine. His yearlong project covering more than 20 independent bookstores around the country was photographed with a large-format film camera; he travels to each location from his home in Arizona via a makeshift camper in which he sleeps, loads film, and stores his equipment.

“I’m kind of old-school,” he said. “I have an engineering degree, so it’s not like I’m a technophobe. I just haven’t adopted technologies that don’t enrich my quality of life.”

One of those things he doesn’t want to see leave are the independent bookstores, a business he views as a lot more than simply a place to buy books—they’re a meeting place away from the often segregated, homogenous world of social media.

“You’re going to encounter other people who work there or who will be there by chance who might have different experiences than you do,” he said. “I think that’s a healthy thing for our society to interact with and make friends with people who have different ideas than what we do.”

Thanksgiving Day 2014

Psalm 110-4-ThanksgivingFrom our home to yours we wish you a blessed and truly happy Thanksgiving Day! Finding our satisfaction in our faithful Father alone, may our souls find abundant reason to thank and praise Him this day and every day.

I found this wonderful poem online and share it with you here, as it expresses our gratitude to God in and for ALL things. I understand it has also been set to music (a hymn), but I could not find a good version of it online, so I post a video of the familiar Thanksgiving hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”, arranged by John Rutter and performed by the Cambridge Singers

I Thank Thee

O Thou whose bounty fills my cup,
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop—
The bitter and the sweet.

I praise Thee for the desert road,
And for the riverside;
For all Thy goodness hath bestowed,
And all Thy grace denied.

I thank Thee for both smile and frown,
And for the gain and loss;
I praise Thee for the future crown
And for the present cross.

I thank Thee for both wings of love
Which stirred my worldly nest;
And for the stormy clouds which drove
Me, trembling, to Thy breast.

I bless Thee for the glad increase,
And for the waning joy;
And for this strange, this settled peace
Which nothing can destroy.

–Jane Crewdson (1860)

Word Wednesday: Gratitude – Noah Webster

For our special word for this Wednesday we stay on a Thanksgiving Day theme and turn to the wisdom of Noah Webster and his famous dictionary.

WebsterismsDrawing on the book Websterisms: A Collection of Words and Definitions Set Forth by the Founding Father of American English (Compiled by Arthur Schulman and published by the Free Press, 2008), we find this entry under the word “gratitude” in the original Webster’s Dictionary:

GRATITUDE, n. An emotion of the heart, excited by a favor or benefit received; a sentiment of kindness or good will towards a benefactor; thankfulness. Gratitude is an agreeable emotion, consisting in or accompanied with good will to a benefactor, and a disposition to make a suitable return of benefits or services, or when no return can be made, with a desire to see the benefactor prosperous and happy. Gratitude is a virtue of the highest excellence, as it implies a feeling and generous heart, and a proper sense of duty.
The love of God is the sublimest gratitude.  Paley.

Will such gratitude toward our supreme Benefactor fill our Thanksgiving Day?

The Christliest Life: “Always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving” – J.R. Miller

Grace Gems!.

1 Thess 5-18Yesterday’s “Grace Gems” devotional was a fitting one leading into the Thanksgiving Day holiday. May it help remind us of what true thankfulness to the Lord is. And may it help instill in us that “note of praise and thanksgiving” that marks all our days – not just today and tomorrow.

The Christliest life

(J.R. Miller, “Christian Essentials”)

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving should never be lacking in a Christian life. It is not enough to observe one day in the year for ‘Thanksgiving’ although that is a beautiful thing to do. Nor is it enough to put a sentence of thanksgiving into our daily prayers, although that, also, is proper.

It is the grateful spirit which pleases God, the spirit that is always full of praise. There should be a note of thanksgiving running through all our life.

Too many of us go to God only with requests, with our burdens, our worries, our troubles; while we but rarely go to Him with any word of thanks.

We are not to be thankful only for the pleasant and agreeable things that come into our days–we are to be thankful, too, for the things that appear to us to be adversities. “Give thanks in everything.” That means . . .
in the sad days, as well as in the glad days,
when clouds are in the sky, as well as when the sunshine is pouring everywhere.

It is said here that this is the will of God for us. The Christliest life–is the one that is always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving.

To sign up to receive these grace-themed devotions each day, visit the “Grace Gems” site at the link above.

Grace for Giving: Rev.C.Griess – Nov.15, 2014 “Standard Bearer”

StandardBearerIn the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer Rev.Cory Griess continues his fine series on the elements of Reformed worship under the rubric “O Come Let Us Worship.”

He has started to treat the element of the offering (or offertory), and in his first installment he has this to say at the outset:

The approach of these two articles [on the offertory] must be to address the subject with both law and gospel. The command to give must not be neglected, and the gospel of grace which primes the hearts of God’s people to let go of all other security and trust the good way of God’s law must be made plain. This is necessary because the giving of alms, as all aspects of worship, is a heart issue. Our depraved hearts tend to make us idolize and trust in money. And it is not until our hearts are captured by the sovereign grace of God that we worship God as He commands and our hands let go of our money.

The basic issue in this element of worship is not how much money we make or do not make. It is not how much we can give or cannot give at whatever stage of life we are in. The basic issue is the heart that knows the grace that God has given to His people, and therefore desires to honor the Lord with money. Grace alone will motivate us to follow God’s command and give with willing hearts in worship (86).

Living by Faith: Living by the Word – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonBeware strange ideas of what faith is. People look for the extraordinary or miraculous. But our miracle-working Lord taught, closely followed by Paul (1 Cor.1:22), that to seek such displays is carnal, not spiritual. Instead, living by faith means doing what the Lord did: living by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matt.4:4, citing Deut.8:3). It is learning, understanding, embracing, digesting, and applying every last word of Scripture until as Charles Spurgeon said of the great John Bunyan, if pricked anywhere we would bleed ‘Bibline.’

This is the Bible’s key to the life of faith – to be so deeply fed and nourished by the Word of God that it energizes us to live in faith, trusting God’s Word, living now in the light of His certain kingdom. From beginning to end, ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Rom.10:17).

This presents an unnerving challenge to us. Know the promises and trust them; know the Word and live on its basis, being guided by its wisdom. Sometimes our problem here, at root, is simply that we do not know our Bibles very well. We are not soaked in, and therefore cannot be energized by, God’s Word.

That is a sobering thought for those who would be men and women of faith, is it not?

Taken from chap.29, “The Life of Faith”, in In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), Kindle edition.