Special Grade-School Visitors This Week

This past Tuesday and Wednesday the PRC Seminary hosted some very special guests.

Adams-5th-2017-1Prof. R. Cammenga introduces the students to the seminary and its work.

On Tuesday the fifth-grade class from Adams Christian School (Wyoming, MI) taught by Mrs. MaryBeth Lubbers joined us for an hour of their morning. We so appreciate these visits and the time we have to interact so as to present more about the seminary and its special labors.

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Seminary students introduce themselves during devotion time.

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Professors and students mingle with the Adams’ students at coffee time.

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A very special student from Adams 5th grade (Abbey Rose, my granddaughter) visits with Stephan Regnerus.

Adams-5th-2017-5Group picture in the seminary assembly room – Adams 5th graders and Mrs. M. Lubbers with our students and professors.

On Wednesday, the fourth-grade class of Mrs. Jane Woudenberg from Heritage Christian School in Hudsonville, MI made their annual visit to us.

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Mingling with the HCS 4th graders at coffee time.

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More mingling as break time begins.

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Learning about the seminary from Prof. R. Cammenga – tough, theological questions! But the children can handle them.

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The visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip through the library! Always a pleasure seeing them browse through and poke around.

We are thankful for the interest in our seminary on the part of these teachers and students. And, as always, we pray that seeds were sown in the hearts and minds of some of these young boys to consider the call to the ministry some day.

God bless your work in the Christian schools too! Pray for us as we pray for you.

Published in: on March 31, 2017 at 6:45 AM  Leave a Comment  

Prof. D. Engelsma’s Interview on “Iron Sharpens Iron” Now Available in mp3

iron sharpens iron logo

DJEngelsma-2016 Prof. David J. Engelsma (emeritus PRC Seminary) was interviewed on Thursday March 30 by national Christian radio host, Chris Arnzen, on his program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The interview focused on the Reformation subjects covered in the book edited by Prof. Engelsma, The Sixteenth-Century Reformation of the Church , which are especially timely and significant in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year. 

UPDATE: Mr. Arnzen has graciously made available an mp3 file of this interview.

We are grateful to Mr. Arnzen for his desire to conduct this second interview with Prof. Engelsma (for more on the first, visit this post), and pray that it is used to inform many of the great good of God’s work through the Reformation.

The following is taken from the “About” page on the “Iron Sharpens Iron” website:

Chris Arnzen | Christian Radio Programming & Advertising Executive & Talk Host of Iron Sharpens Iron.

Chris Arnzen | Christian Radio Programming & Advertising Executive & Talk Host of Iron Sharpens Iron.

If you’re weary of the typical fluffy Christian radio broadcasts, you’ll find Iron Sharpens Iron addresses a multitude of topics from a distinctly Reformed Christian worldview. Chris Arnzen asks the right questions, presents guests who have the answers, and continually challenges Christians to apply their faith to every aspect of their lives.

Reading With Delight – Two Examples: Dekker and Wangerin

Yesterday I posted a quote from Leland Ryken’s book (A Christian Guide to the Classics) concerning the importance of reading with purpose, the two most significant purposes being for edification (instruction) and for delight – that latter being the first focus.

Today I follow up that post with two concrete examples from my recent reading of books that gave me (and are giving me) great delight, hoping to inspire you to read for delight too.

Chosen-TDekker-2007The first is from the pen of Ted Dekker (author of Black, Red, White, Saint, Sinner, A.D. 30, etc.), a great story-teller whose writing I have come to enjoy simply for the great read (but they are also edifying!). The book of his I just finished is Chosen (“Lost Books”, #1), which is actually in the juvenile fiction category (fantasy and speculative), the main characters being teenagers.

I read this title to see if it was good material for my older grandchildren, and I can assure you it is. And for adults. I thoroughly enjoyed this classic “good versus evil” story. In fact, I would classify it as an extended biblical allegory.  I also have the second book in this series (Infidel) and plan to start it soon. Highly recommended!

Without giving away the story, I quote from the publisher’s description:

think with your heart and prepare to die . . .  for you have been Chosen.

Thomas Hunter, supreme commander of the Forest Guard, has seen a great evil decimate much of his beautiful world. With a dwindling army and an epic threat, Thomas is forced to supplement his fighters with new recruits ages 16 and 17. From thousands, four will be chosen to lead a special mission.

Unknown to Thomas, the chosen four are redirected to a different endgame. They must find the seven lost Books of History before the Dark One. For these seven books have immense power over the past, present, and future, controlling not only the destiny of their world . . . but that of ours as well.

The second example is from one I have referenced before – Walter Wangerin’s Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004). The first chapter is a writing gem, the reading of which is sure to conjure up memories of your own mother’s Spring cleaning ritual. I have read “Spring cleaning” three times already, each time with a deep smile on my face and joy in my soul.

Here’s a glimpse of why (And here, too, the spiritual imagery is intentional on the part of this Christian author):

One particular gift of hers [his mother] to us was cleanliness. The experience of cleanliness, of becoming clean. We took it for granted; but it was a way of life, maternal virtue and holy consolation.

My mother kept cleaning, kept reclaiming territory by the act of cleaning it, kept redeeming her children therein.

And spring was always that fresh start of faith and the hope in cleanliness, of the forgiveness of cleanliness, actually, since everything old and fusty could be eliminated, allowing the new to take its place – or better yet, the old itself could be the new again.

…How dearly I loved spring cleaning.

Mom was happy, cleaning. She sang the winter away. She cracked old closures. Everything grievous and wrong and knotty and gritty and guilty was gone. Life returned, and sunlight and laughter and air [p.28].

Need more? There are so many jewels here:

In buckets Mom made elixirs of Spic and Span. She shook Old Dutch Cleanser on sinks as if it were a stick to scold. Throughout the house went ammonia smells, pine smells, soap smells, sudsy smells that cancelled sweats and miasmas.

…By evening we ourselves were bathed, the dust of the day removed, leaving a creamy me.

And this, finally, was the finest comfort of the sacred day: that when I went to bed that night, I slipped my silver self between clean sheets. Sheets sun-dried and wind-softened and smoother to my tender flesh than four white petals of the dogwood tree. Delicious above me and below, blessing me and holding me at once: my mother’s cleanliness. Such a sweet fastness of sheets declared the boy between them to be royalty for sure, chosen, holy, and beloved – the son of a wonderful queen [p.29].

Is this not why we read? What a delight to the soul! What are you reading for pleasure, as well as for instruction?

Published in: on March 29, 2017 at 11:30 AM  Leave a Comment  

Reading Christian Classics with Delight – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenWe have been working our way slowly through chapters 7 and 8 of Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), where the author begins to identify the great classics of literature by breaking them down into categories.

And he starts with what he calls “the leading categories of literature that make up the domain of the classics” (p.61), by which he means the category of Christian literature (which is why chapters 7 and eight are titled “Christian Classis, Part 1 and Part 2”). In that connection we noted how Ryken starts with reading the Bible as a model for reading Christian classics (see our previous posts).

In the last section of chap.7 Ryken (“Reading Christian Classics”), the author addresses first of all the purpose of reading Christian classics, and he takes us back to the Roman poet Horace to begin the discussion:

A good framework to bring into the discussion is the twofold purpose of literature. Writing two decades before the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Horace bequeathed a formula that has stood the test of time. Horace said that literature combines what is useful (utile) with what is sweet (dulci) or delightful (The Art of Poetry). Variants have reverberated through the centuries of literary theory – teach and delight, truth and delight, wisdom and pleasure. These are the purposes of literature – the things that a writer aspires to put into a work that a reader experiences when reading it.

And then Ryken applies these two purposes to the reading of Christian classics, beginning with that purpose of pleasure or delight:

We can legitimately bring both of these expectations to the reading of a Christian classics. There is absolutely no reason to waive the usual criterion of pleasure and enjoyment when we read Christian classics (including the Bible). Literature is an art form. There is  a category known as didactic literature (“having the intention to teach”), and I do not want to rule it out entirely, but a true classic is something that we read for the full range of literary rewards and not as we read a book of information [p.69].

I agree wholeheartedly with Ryken on this, don’t you? When you pick up a Christian classic to read, is it your purpose to read it for the delight and pleasure it will bring as well as for instruction and inspiration? Take that purpose away from any reading, and I don’t want to read anymore.

Reading simply for delight is a great motivator to read. Do you find that true also? If you haven’t, why not try it with your next book.

Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 6:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

World-tilting Truth: God is Wise

If Creation is an act of unimaginable power, it is no less a work of immense wisdom. Every vast and staggeringly complex movement issues from His mind. He needs no manual, counsel, or outside authority.

…When you watch those marvelous nature specials [on TV or the Internet], you are beholding an exhibition of God’s wisdom. Though the narrator blathers on about ‘Mother Nature,’ you should know better. These are the works of God’s hands, and He made them all in wisdom (Ps.104:24).

….God has both an infinite array of facts at His command, and infinite wisdom concerning the meaning, significance, and weight of all those facts in every possible arrangement. He has that knowledge, because He created them and rules over them.

All of this is also a world-tilting truth. The current mind-set makes much of the supposed meaninglessness of ‘life, the universe, and all that.’ The common subtext of many media’s storylines is that life is meaningless in itself; that we must choose our meaning and define ourselves. But history itself has no aim, meaning, or purpose.

This truth [that God is wise and possesses perfect wisdom] demolishes that notion, insisting that we have neither the right nor ability to redefine the universe, since it is a created universe, and since every fact has a value assigned to it by the Creator. Including us. We have neither the right nor ability to assign meaning to the universe. Its Author is the one who assigns definition and meaning. At best, we discover and uncover that meaning.

world-tilting-gospel-phillipsTaken from Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel; Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight (Kregel, 2011), Chapter 4 “The God Who Plans” (Kindle version).

In this chapter, Phillips is preparing the way to introduce God’s amazing salvation plan for lost sinners fallen in Adam (see my previous post on this book). He discusses three of God’s attributes – holiness, love, and wisdom – to explain how they come together in His sovereign purpose to save sinners – that’s chapter 5 – next time! The above quote is from the section where he treats the wisdom of God, especially as it relates to His work of creation.

 

What will you do with the crucified Christ? ~ Rev. J. Marcus

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (March 15, 2017) contains, among other edifying articles, an instructive and inspirational meditation by Rev. John Marcus, pastor of First PRC in Edmonton, AB.

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Pastor Marcus’ meditation is on John 19:18, “Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

Below is the ending application of that meditation. As you will see, Rev. Marcus gives us good things to ponder as we reflect on the death of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

God’s word in our text is both a warning and a comfort to everyone who faces the question concerning their response to Christ.

It’s a warning to those who want a Christ and a religion according to which they can pursue their own lusts. Both sinners came face to face with Jesus and with death. They had time enough to repent. We might think to ourselves, “I can always repent when I’m older.” But, the first thief never repented. God gives us the example of this thief as a warning to everyone who pretends they will repent on their death beds.

On the other hand, Jesus in the midst of these two sinners is also an encouragement because it shows that Jesus forgives even the greatest of sinners. Though he had lived a life of violence and wickedness, the second thief found forgiveness at the cross. We must never think to ourselves, “My sins are too many or too great.” That would be to reproach Jesus and imply that His blood was not precious enough. In fact, it cleanses even the foulest of sinners. All who go to Christ and humble themselves before Him – even in the final hour of their lives – He will in no wise cast out.

Jesus Christ suffered the curse of God for all His elect. He suffered to satisfy the justice of a holy and righteous God whose anger burns against sinners.

What will you do with the crucified Christ?

If you are not an SB subscriber and would like to become one, or would like to receive a sample copy of this Reformed magazine, visit the RFPA website (ww.rfpa.org) or the link above.

The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) – Atlas Obscura

Ready to tour another world library on this Friday, compliments of Atlas Obscura?

Check out this beauty in Stockholm, Sweden. Amazing design and over 2 million volumes to browse. Visit the link below to see all of the images, but you get the idea from this one here.

Here is part of the description offered by “AO”:

The Stadsbiblioteket, the main branch of the Stockholm Public Library System, is one of the most distinctive buildings in the Swedish capital. The 360-degree tower of books at the top is a bibliophile’s temple to reading in-the-round. The graceful rotunda is open to the public, who can climb to the top of the stacks and peer down on the collections below.

The library is an example of Nordic Classicism, pioneered by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund in the 1920s. The slightly chilly façade is, at the same time, oddly inviting, as if to say “we are here to work, but all are welcome.” This style was sometimes known as “Swedish Grace,” a simplified and accessible classicism that had great influence on everything from furniture design to sculpture.

By the way, you ought to subscribe to the Atlas Obscura emails too. Each day you will receive a list of unique places in the world to visit. Did you know there is museum of the alphabet in North Carolina? Go find out!

Source: The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) – Stockholm, Sweden | Atlas Obscura

Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of Grace

In Roman Catholicism grace was seen as a ‘thing,’ a force or fuel like Red Bull. Catholics would pray, ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace,’ as if Mary were wired with spiritual caffeine.

…That is nothing how Luther and his fellow Reformers saw grace. For them, grace was not a ‘thing’ at all; it is the personal kindness of God by which he does not merely enable us but actually rescues and… freely gives us himself. Or, to be more precise: there is no such ‘thing’ as grace; there is only Christ, who is the blessing of God freely given to us. That being the case, Luther tended not to talk much about grace in the abstract, preferring to speak of Christ. For example:

  • Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of and possesses this treasure, the present Christ… the Christ who is grasped by faith and who lives in the heart is the true Christian righteousness, on account of which God counts us righteous and grants us eternal life.

In other words, the grace and righteousness we receive in the gospel are not something other than Christ himself: ‘Christ… is the divine Power, Righteousness, Blessing, Grace, and Life.’

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016Taken from Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016), Chapter 4, “Grace”, pp.88-89.

Ministering in the Vatican’s Front Yard – “Tabletalk” Interview

Under the final rubric in this month’s Tabletalk (“Last Things”) is a fascinating interview with Leonardo De Chirico, a Reformed Baptist church-planting pastor laboring in the heart of Roman Catholicism – Rome, Italy.

In connection with his work in this city (almost 20 years now) TT asked him a number of significant questions, the answers to which provide keen insights into the state of Catholicism there as well as in the U.S.

I quote several of these questions and pastor De Chirico’s answers here, encouraging you to read the complete interview at the Ligonier link below.

And by the way, De Chirico is also the author of a recent title on the Roman Catholic papacy – A Christian’s Pocket Guide to the Papacy (Christian Focus, 2015)

TT: What are the greatest obstacles to church planting in Italy and, specifically, in Rome?
LD: Italy has been shaped by the Counter-Reformation. The gospel that the country has been exposed to is a blurred and confused gospel. The reading of the Bible was forbidden, the control of the church on society was obsessive, the way people lived out their faith was and still is full of pagan elements. On top of this, the modern wave of secularism has added another layer of skepticism, thus making resistance even greater. Rome is even more unique because here the Roman Catholic Church is also a political state, thus mixing religion and power. Rome looks like the city of Ephesus described in Acts 19 where the temple and businesses were intertwined in a shrewd alliance.

TT: Do you find that Roman Catholics are hostile to hearing the gospel? Why or why not?
LD: The main problem is that most Roman Catholics presume they know what the gospel is because they assume that the Roman Church has somehow taught it to them. When they reject the church (as many do), they think that they are rejecting the gospel. We have to show them that this is not the case. It is one thing to distance oneself from the Roman Church, but we try to show them that the gospel is something different that needs to be heard outside of the Roman Catholic box and in its biblical presentation.

TT: Is the Reformation over? Why or why not?
LD: The Reformation, according to God’s Word, is an ongoing task for the church: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming). Until Christ returns, it will never be over. As far as the sixteenth-century Reformation is concerned, the issues that were highlighted then are as relevant as ever: the “formal” principle of the Reformation, the supreme authority of Scripture, is far from being accepted by Rome. According to its teaching, Tradition (capital T) precedes and exceeds the written Word. It is the church that ultimately decides what is true. The last three dogmas promulgated by Rome—the 1854 dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception, the 1870 dogma of papal infallibility, and the 1950 dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven—are binding beliefs for Roman Catholics, and yet they totally lack biblical support. The Bible, though important, is inconclusive. As for the “material” principle, justification by faith alone, Rome rejected the forensic dimension of justification and reconstructed its meaning in a synergistic and sacramental framework that runs contrary to it. The Roman Catholic Church responded to the Reformation first by condemning its teachings and then by committing itself to a long journey of aggiornamento—an update of its doctrine and practice without altering the theological core, which remains utterly unreformed.

I found the last Q&A important too:

TT: How should Reformed Christians engage with their Roman Catholic friends and neighbors?
LD: My rule of thumb is to expose them to Scripture as much as possible. They may know some Christian vocabulary, but it is generally marred in distorted traditions and by deviant cultural baggage. It is also important to show the personal and the communal aspects of the faith in order to embody viable alternatives for their daily lives. The gospel is not only a message for individuals on how to go to heaven, but a fully orbed message centered on the lordship of Christ encompassing the whole of life.

Source: Ministering in the Vatican’s Front Yard: An Interview with Leonardo De Chirico by Leonardo De Chirico

Time to “Reset” (The Grace-Cure for Burnout) – David Murray

Reset-DMurray-2017A brand new title of interest to our readers is Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017). The author is David Murray, pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI and professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, also in Grand Rapids, MI.

I received my review copy last Friday and over the weekend started to dig into it by reading the introduction and browsing its contents. As the publisher’s description tells us, this book confronts head on a common problem, especially among men:

“How did I get here?”

These are the words of many Christian men on the brink of burnout or in the midst of breakdown. They are exhausted, depressed, anxious, stressed, and joyless. Their time is spent doing many good things, but their pace is unsustainable— lacking the regular rest, readjustment, and recalibration they need.

But there is good news: God has graciously provided a way for men to reset their lives to a more sustainable pace. Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary men hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.

The Table of contents reveal the specific ways in which Murray addresses the issue of burnout (and you will immediately sense how practical this book is):

Introduction

Repair Bay 1: Reality Check
Repair Bay 2: Review
Repair Bay 3: Rest
Repair Bay 4: Re-Create
Repair Bay 5: Relax
Repair Bay 6: Rethink
Repair Bay 7: Reduce
Repair Bay 8: Refuel
Repair Bay 9: Relate
Repair Bay 10: Resurrection

Want a taste of what Murray says is the “grace-cure” for the press and stress of life? Listen to these words from the introduction, where the author points to five “deficits of grace” that cause us to burnout. The first two are a lack of motivating grace and a lack of moderating grace. He brings the two together in this paragraph:

Without motivating grace, we just rest in Christ. Without moderating grace, we just run and run – until we run out. We need the first grace to fire us up when we’re dangerously cold; we need the second to cool us down when we’re dangerously hot. The first gets us out of bed; the second gets us to bed on time. The first recognizes Christ’s fair demands upon us; the second receives Christ’s full provision for us. The first says, ‘Present your bodies a living sacrifice’; the second says, ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.’ The first overcomes the resistance of the ‘flesh’; the second respects the limitations of our humanity. The first speeds us up; the second slows us down. The first says, ‘My son, give me your hands’; the second says, ‘My son, give me your heart.’ (p.13).

Sound like something you would like to read and review for the Standard Bearer? If so, let me know.

And if you simply want to read it, the Seminary library has a copy and the Seminary bookstore has a few for sale. I know I will be reading it all the way through this year. I believe the author’s message is one I need – and I don’t think I am alone.