“In the sorrows of Christ… we prepare for Easter, for joy.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

Jn16-20

In order to understand what Walter Wangerin, Jr. is going to say about the above quote, you have to hear what he says about the difference between happiness and joy. The difference is substantial and significant:

The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope – and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us [You may recognize his reference to Rom.5:3-5.]

Now in that light read and savor this as we prepare for Easter joy:

“In the sorrows of Christ… we prepare for Easter, for joy. There can be no resurrection from the dead except first there is a death! But then, because we love him above all things, his rising is our joy. And then the certain hope of our own resurrection warrants the joy both now and forever.

For the moment, lay yourselves aside. Become one of the first disciples. And in that skin, consider: what makes the appearance of the resurrected Lord such a transport of joy for you? Consider this in every fiber of your created being. How is it that so durable a joy in born at this encounter? – joy that shall hereafter survive threats and dangers and persecutions and death, even your own death?

…This: not just that the Lord was dead, but that you grieved his death. That , for three days, you yourself did suffer his absence, and then the whole world was for you a hollow horror. That, despite his promises, this last Sabbath lasted forever and was, to your sorrowing heart, the last of the world after all. You experienced, you actually believed, that the end of Jesus was the end of everything.

Death reigned everywhere.

Death alone.

But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation. For it is, now, to that attitude  and into that experience that the dear Lord Jesus Christ appears – not only an astonishment, gladness and affirmation, but joy indeed!

It is the experience of genuine grief that prepares for joy.

You see? The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first, and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples’ terrible, wonderful preparation.

Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with most faithful care – and thus prepare for joy.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on John 16:20-22 and 20:19b-20, pp.31-32.

Seminary News – March 2018

For this next-to-last day of March 2018 we take the opportunity to bring you some news from PRC Seminary hill. It has been a long and busy month, with another large chunk of the semester completed. That included the first practice preaching sessions and mid-term exams.

20180307_072808.jpg

We started the month with our last major snow storm – and it left a scene of beauty unmatched all Winter.

20180307_072851.jpg

At first it was cloudy and gray, and yet, still magnificent.

20180307_072906.jpg

But then the skies cleared and the sun broke through, and it became even more spectacular.

20180307_082820.jpg20180307_082702.jpg

Even the early daffodils were confused.

20180307_083331.jpg

But life goes on – including our Friday grilled lunches – even if two students are finishing up an exam. 🙂

20180316_121144.jpg

And the deer reappear, only to flee when no man pursues.

20180322_084505.jpg

This week started (8 AM Monday morning) with a special “meditation” on suffering for Christ’s sake by Prof. R. Cammenga, from seminary via Facetime to fellow Christians attending a conference in Myanmar (7 PM there) led by Rev. Titus and facilitated by John Van Baren of Hope PRC. Very special to hear the people sing Psalter #64 in Burmese and then hear Rev. Titus translate Prof.’s talk and prayer.

20180326_082738.jpg

Then on Wednesday we were favored with the annual visit of Mrs. Jane Woudenberg’s 4th-grade class from Heritage Christian School (Hudsonville, MI).

20180328_090104.jpg

The students heard a talk about the seminary and its purpose from Prof. R. Dykstra.

20180328_090342.jpg

After that, they received a brief tour of the building.

20180328_100103.jpg

And then, of course, it was time for snacks (provided by the room mothers) and fellowship.

20180328_100221.jpg

These visits are always a highlight for faculty and students – a great encouragement, and an opportunity to perhaps kindle in the hearts of some of the young boys a desire to serve as pastors in Christ’s church. For this we labor and for this we pray.

Are YOU praying for this too?

Published in: on March 30, 2018 at 9:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Mega-phone of Christ Crucified

Mark-15-37“‘A loud cry.’ In Greek the words are phone megale, which, transposed, begin to look familiar: a mega-phone.

A shout of triumph!

…What was that?

A loud shout! Phone megale! …No, this is not at all what the centurion expects. It’s a cry that he has heard before, to be sure – but never in defeat and never, never in death, always when the soldier has won the battle or the king the war.

This is a cry of triumph! The centurion whirls around to see Jesus: he sees eyes like fiery darts in the darkness; he sees a mouth thin and thin, as thin as the blade of a sword, grinning!

Victorious? King of the Jews – victorious over what? What do these flaming eyes announce?

Satan, thou art defeated in my defeat! Sin, dispossessed of a people! Death, look about thee; thou art not mighty and dreadful. Lo, I close my eyes and die  – and death shall be no more.

Then, suddenly, he dies. The centurion’s jaw drops. He stares, but he’s seen it before; he knows the signs: Jesus is dead. dead. No coma, no deeper sleep than another sleep. All at once the eyes see nothing, the mind thinks nothing, the heart has ceased to beat –

-but suddenly! That’s what rivets the centurion. It is as if this man chose to go fully conscious straight to the wall of death, and there to strike it with all his might and, in the striking, die. Aware of absolutely everything.

See to it, Centurion.

I’ll see to it all, sir.

No, not all. One thing astounds the centurion: how can a crucified criminal act so convincingly like the victor?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“O Christ!

When you died, you broke the wall that divided us from God: you struck it, you cracked it, you tore it apart – you made a door of that which had been death before.

And the sign was that “the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom,” and the mercy seat was made open to my approach. Amen.”

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 15:37-39a, pp.131-32.

Picture Book Biographies Booklist! – Redeemed Reader

Every so often I like to feature some children’s books (I won’t forget our focus on Newbery classics this year!), and today we turn again to the website “Redeemed Reader” for assistance and inspiration (If you have not yet signed up to receive their weekly email notices, this serves as a friendly reminder.).

Just today, their email called attention to a new book list, this time of picture book biographies! Who doesn’t like those?! As “RR” points out, such books are not just for the very young and early readers; they are for ALL of us. I will happily admit that I am always on the lookout for great children’s picture books – and adult ones. 🙂

The following paragraphs are Redeemed Readers’ introduction to an extensive list of picture books, which, by the way, may also be used toward their 2018 reading challenge (sounds like a great way to get your children involved in that program!).

Picture Book Biographies = Fantastic, Diverse Resources

Picture book biographies are one of the best ways to introduce a person from history. Why? They bring interesting people to life in a short, succinct, satisfying manner.

Illustrations can add tremendously to the information, enabling readers to get a “feel” for the subject.

Additionally, the subjects chosen for picture book biographies are so broad! Presidents and other famous historical figures such as Helen Keller or the Wright Brothers are obvious choices. But picture book biographies also tackle Noah Webster, the inventors of neon paint, the woman who first mapped the ocean, and the man behind the Macy’s Day Parade puppets! No matter what person, topic, or time period, there is sure to be a relevant picture book biography out there.

Picture Book Biographies are Not Just For Kids!

Even teens and grown ups can learn from picture book biographies. For instance, read one of the Shakespeare biographies listed below before tackling Hamlet. Marvel at the man who photographed snowflakes before a series on weather, the seasons, or microscopy. Supplement a history class with a look at a minority figure or a Christian hero that the history textbook might have glossed over; Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library and Simonetta Carr’s biographies are good examples that are certainly robust enough for middle and high school students.  Or take a look at River of Words before diving into William Carlos Williams’s poetry. The possibilities are endless.

And now, if you wish to check out the actual titles – and reviews! – visit the link below. But here’s a picture of one to entice you to do so:

Source: Picture Book Biographies Booklist! – Redeemed Reader

The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

Members of iGen suffer from serious intellectual and moral deficits: they are ill-informed, uninterested in pursuing relevant information, passionate without being active, afraid of debate with those who disagree, and uninterested in learning or exploration.

Such is the summary of this revealing book review posted yesterday on The Witherspoon Institute’s website. The author introduces us to the book he reviews in the opening paragraph:

“iGen” is both the title of Jean M. Twenge’s most recent book (subtitle: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood), and the name she has coined for the generation succeeding the Millennials. Twenge, who has been studying generational differences for a quarter century, includes within iGen those born between 1995 and 2012, plus or minus a bit. What ties this generation together? It is their hitherto unknown relationship to social media and its technological platform: they are “the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.”

Today’s parents and educators must pay attention to what Twenge and other social and cultural critics are now saying about this “iGen.” It is troubling, showing again the harsh reality of what Marshall McLuhan said years ago (1964!) when he wrote, ‘The medium is the message.”

Here is just a small part of the troubling fruits of what smartphone technology has done to our generation:

Mental Health and Meaninglessness

First, as Twenge argues extensively, there is a mental-health deficit, one clearly correlated with screen time: “teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are less likely to be depressed.” This, in turn, leads to a higher risk of suicide. One reason for the connection between smartphone/internet use and depression is the predominance of cyberbullying. Another is the negative impact that excessive smartphone use has on sleep. And surely yet another is the simple disconnectedness from real things and real people that is experienced by those whose primary forms of personal interaction are mediated by a screen.

Twenge’s advice in response to this is admirably direct: “Put down the phone.” This is exactly right. But this will never happen unless parents are smarter about when to introduce smartphones in their children’s lives. I was interested recently to hear of a “Wait Until 8th” movement, attempting to convince parents not to allow their children to use smartphones until at least eighth grade. That is a start, but what eighth-grader really needs constant access to the internet? “Nein until 9th” or “When? 10th” would be even better.

And this:

Second, there is a deficit of meaning. This deficit shows up in several places in Twenge’s book. The smartphone and its virtual spaces seem to be the primary place where teens spend time together. Their capacity for and interest in serious personal relationships with others is deeply impaired. Another example: Twenge devotes a chapter to the declining religious participation of iGen. According to Twenge, by 2016, “one out of three 18-24 year olds said they did not believe in God.” Twenge attributes this in part to “American culture’s increasing focus on individualism,” and this seems plausible.

Are we still living with the illusion that all our technology has no effect on us and our children? Think again. Better yet, read on at the link below and learn the dangerous effects of the tools of our age. And then commit to using today’s technology in moderation, without having it control you and your life. And, finally, return to the “quiet” life of reading and reflection. That is much better for the soul – and for the body.

Source: The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

Singing Our Prayers in the Psalms

PsalmistDavidThe Psalms were probably most often sung antiphonally. They were particularly well suited for that through the verse form, according to which the two parts of a verse are so connected that they express in different words essentially the same thought. This is called parallelism.

This form is not accidental. It encourages us not to allow the prayer to be cut off prematurely, and it invites us to pray together with one another. That which seems to be unnecessary repetition to us, who are inclined to pray too hurriedly, is actually proper immersion and concentration in prayer. It is at the same time the sign that many, indeed all believers, pray with different words yet with one and the same word. Therefore, the verse form in particular summons us to pray the Psalms together.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the second section, “Who Prays the Psalms?” (pp.23-24)

Published in: on March 25, 2018 at 10:37 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Goodness is a spotlight ..on our shame, our filth.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

To sinners, the mere presence of goodness can feel like an attack.

…Goodness is a spotlight. It shines on our shame, our filth, our deformities; it picks out the parts we hide from the world and even from ourselves. We will strike at that light.  We’ll haul it into court, discredit it, and smash it in order to put it out. We’ll spit on it and belittle it. We’ll blindfold it, hit it, and ask it to prophesy – all to prove what a fraud this ‘prophet’ is (And to dehumanize him! Get it?)

Where patience shines, impatience is revealed and hates the attention. Kindness shows unkindness to be hideous. True joy intensifies true bitterness; gentleness enrages belligerence; and self-control proves the pig to be nothing but a pig.

The real trial in Caiaphas’s house is not of the guilt of Jesus. Rather, Jesus is judging the guilt of the others, not by speaking, but by being perfectly innocent. Innocence accuses its accusers. (This is the great war between secular powers and genuine religion; the trial continues even today.) They hate it. They scream to drown the sweeter truth; they condemn him to death in order to put out the light. They want dearly to put out the light.

+++

Save me, Lord, from blaming anyone but myself:
— not you (whose innocence spotlights my sin),
— not your foes (whose sins are my sin),
— not people whose virtues reveal my evil.

I must suffer my guilt, my own guilt; this is the pain of an earnest repentance; and repentance alone can hear your forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness. Amen.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:65 with John 3:19-20, pp.85-86

A Rare Book on the Synod of Dordt, 1621

Last month we began to highlight the 400th anniversary of the “great” Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), which begins this year and will extend into next year. In our initial post we simply called attention to some general things.

In this post I want to begin to call attention to some of the special books we have in the PRC Seminary library on the Synod and its work, including, of course, books on the Canons of Dordt, which set forth the distinctive doctrines of the Reformed faith over against the Arminianism that the Synod was called to contend against (This latter type books we will feature at a later time.).

20180322_125819

One of those special books is found in our rare book case and is a 1621 edition of the Acts of the Synod of Dordt (cf. outside binding above and title page with familiar drawing of the delegates below).

20180322_125047.jpg

Yes, you read that correctly – a 1621 edition – printed only two years after the Synod had ended. As you may guess, this work is in Dutch and in old script, which can make it difficult to read.

20180322_125627.jpg

But, you can certainly make out some of the words, especially on those pages where the various delegates are mentioned from the states and provinces in the Netherlands (cf. pages above and below). Those of us in West Michigan will recognize these provinces because they also are towns found nearby – Drenthe, Overisel, Zeeland, Holland (north and south), Graafschap, Zutphen.

You may notice that the names and the descriptions of the men are Latinized (that is, stated in Latin), which was the language of the church at that time yet.

20180322_125609

The page below shows some familiar names at the end of a section of addressing the articles of the Remonstrants (Arminians).

20180322_125154.jpg

That’s it for now – although I might add that a “new” article on the Synod of Dordt has been added to the PRC website“Our Debt to Dordt” – by one of our current professors, Ronald L. Cammenga. Be sure to read that for more information and inspiration on how Dordt impacts us today.

Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Issue vs. Problem

To start this new year, GrammarBook.com has been focusing on proper use of words that are close in meaning but often confused. The differences between them can be subtle yet significant, as we saw last time with the conjunctions “as”, “since,” and “because.”

In today’s grammar lesson they focus on “another pair of tricky, freely swapped words” : “issue and problem”. What follows is the important distinction between these two, plus a little quiz to help keep us on the “straight and narrow.”

The primary meaning of issue is “a point or matter of discussion, debate, or dispute between two or more parties.” Other relevant definitions include “a matter of public concern” and “a misgiving, objection, or complaint.” 

Problem, on the other hand, communicates “a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution,” “an intricate unsettled question,” “a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation,” and “difficulty in understanding or accepting.” 

Some dictionaries have helped blur the distinction by allowing the concept of problem to trickle into definitions of issue. Within dictionary entries, appearances of problem under meanings of issue range from near the top to much farther down. 

For example, the online American Heritage Dictionary introduces problem in its second definition of issue, immediately following the first and more weighted one. Conversely, the online Oxford English Dictionary does not mention problem as related with issue until the sixteenth definition. Merriam-Webster alludes to problem in definition six. Dictionary.com does not introduce the idea of problem at all. 

So what, then, do careful writers do when common usage and even dictionaries muddy our mission for precision? We recommend an even greater focus on using issue and problem as we’ve distinguished them here. This will help reinforce the exactness English offers us.

We acknowledge that issue and problem will still be exchanged in spoken communication. At the same time, now that we better understand the difference, we can lead more-accurate usage by keeping their intended primary meanings within our own speech.

And now here is your “pop quiz” to test what you’ve just learned:

Choose either issue or problem as it fits by its main definition in each sentence.

1) I think we have a serious (issue / problem) with the balance sheet. The numbers are way off.

2) Do you think he has (an issue / a problem) with his focus during meetings?

3) The main (issue / problem) here is whether we should allow the empty twenty acres west of Route 45 to be rezoned for commercial use.

4) The council will soon discuss the (issue / problem) of a proposed hike in water rates.

So, how did you do? If not so well, are you facing an issue or a problem? 🙂

Source: Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Issue vs. Problem – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 10:22 PM  Leave a Comment  

Why Care about Doctrine? To Worship God Aright – Rev. B. Huizinga, March 15, 2018 “Standard Bearer”

quote-the-foundation-of-true-holiness-and-true-christian-worship-is-the-doctrine-of-the-gospel-john-owen-53-28-65

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available (March 15, 2018) and among its edifying articles is the second installment of Rev. Brian Huizinga’s little series titled “Why?” penned for the rubric “Taking Heed to the Doctrine.”

In these articles he is answering the question, ‘Why take heed to doctrine?” That is, as Reformed Christians who confess to believe the truths contained in the Word of God and summarized in the Reformed confessions, “why hold on to and pay attention to this doctrine?”

To this question he gives a six-pronged answer, the third of which we reference in this post. That third reply is “worship: because doctrine of the foundation for worship.” Here’s more of what he has to say about this reason for embracing sound doctrine:

The goal of all things is the worship of God. The redeemed church exists for God’s glory. Unlike the reprobate wicked whom God uses to glorify Himself in spite of their hatred for Him, and unlike the brute creation which gives glory to God without conscious awareness of it, believers in the church have an intellectual understanding of God by faith and willingly, consciously, and joyfully extol Him from the heart. But how can we arrive at an understanding of our covenant God apart from a careful study of His revelation to us in the doctrines (teachings) of the Bible? We must worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24); therefore, doctrinal knowledge is a sine qua non for worship.

To put it differently, doctrine exists for the purpose of doxology and is necessary for doxology even as the foundation exists for the house and is necessary for the house. No doctrine means no doxology, and false doctrine tends to idolatry. We take heed to doctrine so that we might rightly know and then fittingly praise our God. 

…When a congregation of believing sinners is brought to stand under the shadow of the cross and see the eternal, unchangeable, particular, saving love of God through a faithfully explained, sensibly applied and dynamically delivered exposition of Scripture by a preacher who cries, “Behold your God!” hearts come alive in fruitful worship.

Who exclaims in doxology, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God…for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, Amen!” (Rom. 11:33-36), but that blessed Jewish or Grecian soul that has sat spellbound at the feet of the holy apostle listening to him explain with careful doctrinal precision the righteousness of God that is revealed from faith to faith?

Who sings in doxology, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen!” (I Tim. 1:17), but that humble speck of dust who has first given himself to serious contemplation of the loaded doctrinal statement, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief,” (I Tim. 1:15) and made it his own?

Who cries in doxology, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of thy glory!” (Is. 6:3) and cries so loudly that the posts of the doors move (Is. 6:4), but that creature, heavenly or other, who has stood in the immediate presence of the enthroned God?

We take heed to doctrine. Why? It is the foundation of our worship. The church must take heed to sound doctrine, for only the foundation of sound doctrine – Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – makes possible a fitly framed building of doxology to God. Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy not for the sake of orthodoxy; orthodoxy for the sake of doxology.

Precious food for our souls as we live in these doctrinally parched times. May our thirst for God lead us to hunger for His truth, so that we break forth in praise to Him.