End the Year in Worship and Song

Looking for a profitable way to end the year tonight? Allow me to give you a couple of ideas.

First, attend the special Old Year’s worship service held in one of the local PRCs.

Second, join the Voices of Victory, Sacred Harmonies, and the Covenant Quartet at Hudsonville Reformed Church anytime between 8 and 11 p.m. this evening, for a night of remembering, reflecting, and praising our God in song.

Here are the details! We would love to see you there! Come when you can, stay as long as you like.


Note to Self: Take Note

Note-to-self-ThornAs we end the year of our Lord 2016 today, this final chapter in Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, is fitting. This forty-eighth chapter is titled “Take Note.”

How will we “take note” of the Lord’s ways with us on this final day of 2016?

We can start by reading and meditating on 1 Chronicles 16:8-13. And then read on.

Dear Self,

Like the Israel of old, you tend to forget the most basic things. Important things. You need constant reminders…. You need to find ways to remind yourself about the things that matter, because when you aren’t intentionally setting the truth before yourself you forget.

You forget that before you knew Jesus you were a slave to sin, a child of wrath, a dead man walking. And remembering these truths promotes humility in yourself and dependence on God. You forget that in Jesus you are his disciple, a child of God, a new creation. And remembering these truths creates gratitude and optimism. You forget that you are made for the glory of God and the good of your neighbors. And remembering these truths gives you purpose and passion.

…Without reminders you will forget all of this and much more. And when you forget these things you get into trouble. This means you must do better than build a robust theology. You will have to exercise it. It demands setting that theology before yourself frequently. Israel erected “memorial stones” to remind themselves of the person and work of God. One of the primary ways you will remember the truth is by preaching it to yourself regularly.

…And do you realize that you are doing it right now? You are reminding yourself of the need to preach to yourself, to remind yourself, and to not forget your God. Remember your God and his wonderful works (pp.135-36).

Thousands of rare books left to Trinity College’s Wren Library in Cambridge

This interesting books news item appeared in Cambridge News December 15, 2016. This is the kind of thing librarians dream of – and sometimes are privileged to experience in their lifetime.

As we close out 2016, I am thankful for the PRC Seminary acquisitions of this past year – purchased and donated. None of these books was perhaps as rare as those received by Trinity College, but to us they are all invaluable.

Below is the beginning of the story as reported by Cambridge; read the rest and view more images at the link below.

An extraordinary’ private collection of books has been bequeathed to Trinity College’s Wren Library in Cambridge.

More than 7,500 texts were left to the library by Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe – one of the largest bequests in its history.

The vast collection features rare first editions by the poets Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth and Tennyson.

Other fascinating texts include previously unknown manuscripts of Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Florence Nightingale and Charles Dickens.

Dr. Nicholas Bell, Trinity’s librarian said it was “an extraordinary library – one of the most important private collections in Britain, which offers untold discoveries.”

Source: ‘One of the most important private collections in Britain’ – thousands of rare books left to Trinity College’s Wren Library in Cambridge – Cambridge News

Published in: on December 29, 2016 at 10:01 AM  Leave a Comment  

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of 2016

As is their custom this time of year, the people at AbeBooks have posted their most expensive book sales for 2016. You might be surprised to see what led the way.

Do you have a rare edition of a classic lying around the house? Or maybe you are on the prowl at the local thrift stores? That unique item could catch you thousands!

The list includes other collectible items too, like a drawing signed by Dr. Seuss and a letter of Winston Churchhill following a rejected marriage proposal. Following their introduction below, check out the AbeBooks’ list at the link at the end.

Another year, another list of remarkable rare books, collectibles and art. We have been compiling this list of most expensive sales for many years now and it never fails to amaze. The descriptions are like mini-history lessons and each item usually has a fascinating background story about the author, illustrator, publisher, or even a previous owner.

Let’s not forget, people bought these items on the Internet. AbeBooks celebrated 20 years of business in 2016, and not many people thought that used and rare books would be one the first success stories of internet retailing when our founders started out in 1996. Many things have happened since 1996 but people still love books and beautiful things.

The only Alice that matters, the essential Mr. Dickens, the farsighted Mr. Wells, the earnest Mr. Wilde, the singular Ms. Lee, a rather sad British Bulldog, a genius called Geisel, and the one and only Pooh are all here. Enjoy the list and dream that one day one of these might be yours.

Source: AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of 2016

Published in: on December 28, 2016 at 6:38 AM  Leave a Comment  

How Should We Remember God? – David Mathis

tt-dec-2016You may recall that the December issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Remembering God.” That theme is worked out in several featured articles, one of which is “How Should We Remember?” by David Mathis.

Mathis concerns himself with the means of remembering God, the practical ways in which we learn repeatedly not to forget our God but faithfully to recall His wonderful works and ways toward us. In the author’s words by way of summary, “His primary avenues for sacred remembrance are these: hearing His voice, having His ear, and belonging to His body.”

It is that last one we wish to focus on with you today. It is so easy to forget God by forgetting the important place He has given us in the body of His Son, the church of Jesus Christ. Mathis reminds us of this indispensable means for remembering God in his last two sections.

Read them; remember and use this means. And by living faithfully in the church may we chiefly remember our God and His amazing grace to us.

Fellowship: Belong to His Body

Third, and perhaps most overlooked in our day as a vital avenue of remembering God, is the community of fellow Christians in the local church. Let it be said loud and clear that other believers are an essential, irreplaceable means of edification in our lives. Most of our lives are not spent bent over our Bibles and on our knees in private prayer, but most of us do rightly spend a massive portion of our daily lives with other people. And, it is hoped, some of those people, whether family or coworkers or in whatever avenue of life, are fellow believers who can be not only acquaintances but God’s willing instruments in the ongoing delivery of His grace into our lives.

Whether it’s a word of spiritual encouragement, a memorized or paraphrased verse, a probing question, a kind corrective word, or the simple invitation to pray together, we need real-life relationships with fellow believers who know us well enough to direct both encouragement and challenge into the specifics of our lives. The Christian life is a community project.

The Most Important Habit

Chief among the many good habits we can cultivate under the banner of fellowship is corporate worship. The reading and preaching of God’s Word come together with corporate prayer and receiving His grace in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper within the context of worshiping Jesus together.

You might say that the coming together of Word, prayer, and fellowship in corporate worship makes it the single most important habit of the Christian life. It is the vital spark plug of faithfulness. Your Christian life will soon become famished and anemic without corporate worship and its unique banquet of spiritual blessings to be received in active faith.

Source: How Should We Remember? by David Mathis

The Wexford Carol

On this Christmas holiday Monday we feature a beautiful Christmas carol, perhaps not as well known as others – the Wexford Carol, a traditional Irish Christmas song – which is thought to date back to the 12th century.

The lyrics are:

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox’s stall

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

For a beautiful performance of this carol, listen to this version sung by the Clare College Choir (Cambridge), directed by John Rutter.

For another unique performance, in which the words come out more clearly, listen to this one.

Published in: on December 26, 2016 at 9:11 AM  Leave a Comment  

Unto Us a Child Is Born – J. Calvin

Christmas-2015For this fourth and final Sunday in December – Christmas Day – we post an excerpt from a sermon of John Calvin (1509-1564) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The title is “Unto Us a Child Is Born” and is based on Isaiah 9:6-7. Here are a few of Calvin’s thoughts on this glorious OT gospel passage:

He is called Mighty God for the same reason that in Isaiah 7:14 he was called Immanuel. If in Christ we find nothing but human flesh and nature, our glorying will be foolish and vain, and our hope will rest on an uncertain and insecure foundation. But if he shows himself to be to us God, even the Mighty God, we may rely on him with safety.

It is good for us that he is called strong or mighty because our contest is with the devil, death, and sin (see Eph.6:12), enemies too powerful and strong, by whom we would be vanquished immediately if Christ’s strength had not made us invincible.

Thus we learn from this title that there is in Christ abundance of protection for defending our salvation, so that we desire nothing beyond him; he is God, who is pleased to show himself strong on our behalf.

This application may be regarded as the key to this and similar passages, leading us to distinguish between Christ’s mysterious essence and the power by which he has revealed himself to us (pp.74-75).

Before the Paling of the Stars – C. Rossetti

Before the paling of the stars,
Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cock crow,
Jesus Christ was born:

Born in a stable,
Cradled in a manger,
In the world his hands had made
Born a stranger.

Priest and king lay fast asleep
In Jerusalem;
Young and old lay fast asleep
In crowded Bethlehem;

Saint and angel, ox and ass,
Kept a watch together
Before the Christmas daybreak
In the winter weather.

Jesus on his mother’s breast
In the stable cold,
Spotless lamb of God was he,
Shepherd of the fold:

Let us kneel with Mary maid,
With Joseph bent and hoary,
With saint and angel, ox and ass,
To hail the King of Glory.

~ Christina Rossetti, a 19th century English poet born of Italian parents (1830-1894).

This nativity poem may be found in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, with a Memoir and Notes by William Michael Rossetti (1904), Page 217. Mr. Rossetti noted at page 474: “This was in the Lyra Messianica, 1865, named simply Before the paling of the stars. I retain my sister’s own title.”

This poem has also been set to music, a performance of which may be heard below.

Published in: on December 24, 2016 at 6:53 PM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives: First PRC Music Programs, 1941-1964

‘Tis the season for programs.

As you know, during the Christmas and New Year seasons numerous church choir and Sunday School programs are held, besides those which our Christian schools produce and perform. From this point of view, too, it is a wonderful time of the year. I speak as a music lover, as I enjoy and am edified by a variety of Christian music.

Which made we remember that in the PRC archives we also collect many church programs – that is, the printed versions. Our First PRC in Grand Rapids used to have many such music programs (entire oratorios, in fact), in part because of her size and thus in part because of the musical talent in her midst. She also had the Radio Choir (connected with the Reformed Witness Hour program), which produced her own programs and also sponsored others (cf. below).

In looking up a folder in one of First’s boxes in the archives, I found these miscellaneous programs, which I share with you today. It will give you a sense of the variety of music programs she once prepared and hosted. Undoubtedly, you will also recognize a few names. 🙂


1stprc-gr-programs_00031stprc-gr-programs_00041stprc-gr-programs_0005And, I might add, though she is considerably smaller today then she was in her prime (one of the largest Reformed congregations in the U.S.), First PRC still has terrific musical talent in her midst – evident from the fine programs she still hosts.



“Refo Thursday”: Pope calls Luther a “wild boar”

120-calvin-ch-magThe Christian History Institute (which also publishes the magazine Christian History – issue #120 is about Calvin and the Reformation – cf. image here) has a special post each week featuring various aspects of the Reformation.

It is called “Refo Thursday” (“your weekly throwback to the Reformation” [in their words] – connected to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017), and usually features a quote from one of the major Reformers and a brief video on an aspect of Reformation history.


Today’s post looks at Luther’s hymn writing as well as the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church for the statements Luther made in his 95 theses. I post the image they allow you to share and the video.

You may also sign up for the “Refo Thursday” at the link provided here. And, I might add, there you will also find plenty of other videos you may watch from these past Thursday posts.