Justifying Faith: “We bank our present and our eternity on Jesus Christ alone, with no backup plan, no “Plan B.” He is it.”

​In our case, what justifying faith specifically means is that we abandon hope of finding meaning or purpose or God apart from Jesus as our Lord. We get out of our boat, whatever it is. We bail out on any fantasies that we are good enough, deserving enough, worthy enough. We stretch police tape across any notion of being self-sufficient, or of finding hope and life and a relationship with God anywhere but through Jesus Christ the crucified and risen master. We cling to Jesus alone, on the strength of His word alone, for hope of eternal life.

So we must know truths about Jesus’ person and work, and recognize them for what they are. We must also know that the truths are true that we know about Him, realizing that they correspond to reality, and that this has a potential impact on us. But beyond that, we must abandon ourselves to Him, we must lean on and trust in Him alone for all that He claims to offer [do not stumble over this word here; in the context he simply means “present, show forth, or hold forth]: the way, the truth, the life, forgiveness, and God. We must rest all our hopes on Jesus.

We bank our present and our eternity on Jesus Christ alone, with no backup plan, no “Plan B.” He is it.

We must not look to ourselves. We must look away to Christ, to the One who bore our sins and crimes and rebellion, on whom the holy God poured out His wrath. We look to Christ and see the perfect justice of God. We also look to Christ and see our own righteousness, the seamless and flawless purity that God demands. It is that vast, immeasurable, flawless righteousness that clothes us before God.

That’s living faith, repentant faith, which God enables in us by grace alone, and through which alone He pronounces us 100 percent righteous because of the infinite righteous perfections of Jesus Christ alone.

Though it has been some time since I posted on this book, one of the Kindle books I continue to make my way through is Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel; Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight (Kregel, 2011). I had again put it aside for a few months to read some other things, but returned to it today to read a couple more chapters from Section 3 on God’s way of salvation.

Phillips has back-to-back chapters on justification and regeneration as the ways in which God deals with our sin problem – the guilt of it and the corruption of it, respectively. Both are good chapters, laying out the Scripture’s teaching on these two aspects of God’s saving work. I posted earlier on regeneration, so tonight I focus on his thoughts on God’s work of justification (pp.168-69). In this section Phillips is using the example of Peter walking on the water as an illustration of true, saving faith. In that light some of the language here makes more sense.

Next time we will start to look at his section on sanctification and growth in Christ – also a profitable section!

God’s “greenbelt”, the Sabbath


The practice of worshiping on the day Jesus rose from the dead – the first day of the week – goes back to the time of the apostles (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; Acts 20:7; i Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10). However, practicing the Lord’s Day is extremely difficult in our society today. Few neighbors treat it as a ‘greenbelt’ in time. Many, including Christians, look bewildered when you decline an invitation to a soccer game during morning or evening worship. In fact, many church activities on Sunday have less to do with inculcating the faith than with providing ‘safe’ things for kids to do.

…Setting aside the ordinary callings and pastimes of the week, our calling on the Lord’s Day is to share, together with our coheirs, in the powers of the age to come. It is not by simply emptying the day with a list of rules, but by filling it with treasure hunting, that the Christian Sabbath orients us, our families, and our fellow saints to our heavenly citizenship. However, everyone around you sees it as the ideal day for a trip to the mall, sports, and other entertainments. Whatever fills our Sundays fills our hearts throughout the week. The Lord’s Day is not a prison but a palace. It is a wonderful gift to turn off the devices that interrupt our daily schedules and to push our roots down into the fertile soil that produces trees in God’s garden. It is a delight to set aside our normal associations with friends and coworkers – even non-Christian family members – in order to commiserate with fellow heirs of the kingdom concerning the news we’ve heard about the age to come.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 9,  “God’s ecosystem,” of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I continue to read with rich profit.

In this chapter, Horton teaches and applies the beautiful organic idea of the church (especially as God’s living, growing garden) found throughout the Word of God. In this particular section he brings in “the Sabbath as God’s greenbelt.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.176-77.

Covenant Christian High Turns 50


This year Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, MI turns 50 (1968-2018) and this weekend the covenant community behind the school (mainly Protestant Reformed parents and grandparents) will celebrate. Being a graduate of this blessed institution (Class of 1976!), I am personally grateful for the Christian secondary education I received from our godly teachers.

A special program is planned for this evening (Friday, April 27) at Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville, MI, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tomorrow (Saturday, April 28) there will be an open house at the school from 1:00-5:00 p.m. We hope you are planning to attend these significant events!


A special edition of the “Covenant Courier” has been published, which highlights the history and the development of the school during these 50 years of existence. On Covenant CHS’s website you will find a link to this entire issue (also provided above).



And on Covenant’s website you will also find a link to an online album of pictures of life and labor at CHHS by the decades. That makes for great memories, besides being quite entertaining! Did we really look that bad in the ’70s?!

The above photos are taken from the Fifteenth anniversary booklet of CCHS (1968-1983), a copy of which is found in the PRC archives and in our seminary library’s vertical files. The first photo marks the laying of the “date stone” on April 20, 1968, which includes “a small copper box containing many items of historical interest on how the society and building originated” (p.6). The second photo shows Rev. John Heys giving a speech on Psalm 103:17,18 at this ceremony.

We join with Covenant’s community in thanking our faithful God for providing and preserving this important Christian school for 50 years. May He continue to bless it and use it in the formation of covenant young people.

Word Wednesday: “Carus, dear: Cheri, Chari”

LatinisFunBefore April escapes us, we should have a “Word Wednesday” feature. So, let’s turn once again to the Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words (Barnes & Noble, 2000 –  co-authored by Bob Moore and Maxine Moore), where we find this common but interesting Latin root along with its derivatives: “CARUS, dear: CHERI, CHARI.” Can you guess what’s coming?

Many of the words that derive from carus are found in dictionaries of quotations.

‘Let us… CHERIsh, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, write,’ John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law. To cherish  is to hold dear, care for, value, prize, and appreciate.

‘Romeo: “I would I were thy bird.” Juliet: “Sweet, so would I;/ Yet I should kill thee with much CHERIshing,”‘ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. Cherishing is loving, idolizing, nurturing, treasuring, and venerating.

CHARIty is benevolence, humanity, good will, and generosity. ‘The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little soon forgotten CHARIties of a kiss or smile, the heartfelt compliment…,’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Friend. The Improvisatore. Charities are favors, gifts, and kindnesses.

‘I bequeath my soul to God…./ For my name and memory, I leave it to men’s CHARItable speeches…,’ Francis Bacon, from his will.

‘But how shall we expect charity toward others when we are unCHARItable to ourselves?’ Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici. Uncharitable means unkind, harsh, mean, unforgiving, and not generous.

‘From all blindness of heart, from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all unCHARItableness, Good Lord, deliver us,’ The Book of Common Prayer. Uncharitableness is unkindness, harshness, mercilessness, or hatred. [pp.50-51]


Published in: on April 25, 2018 at 10:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

How Not to Read a Secular Classic

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are up chapter 9, where he treats “secular classics” (pp.80-90).

The next section has the heading “How Not to Read  a Secular Classic,” and tonight let’s take a look at his thoughts on this. Ryken has three points on this subject – three “errors,” as he calls them. I will list them and then we will let him expand on them in his own words.

  • “The first is the error of avoidance.” He simply means that we would exclude secular classics from our reading material, and in that way waste a good opportunity for learning and growth.
  • “A second way not to read secular classics is to read with what scholars call ‘a hermeneutic of suspicion’ – looking for trouble at every turn.” Ryken has this in mind: “To read with suspicion means to presume that an author ‘got it wrong’ and that the only possible function of a book is to prompt us to disagree with it.” I think we can understand why we would easily fall into this when reading a non-Christian writer. That is not to say, however, that we must not “be wary and on guard, but we can be alert without assuming that an author or work is our opponent on every count.” That’s good counsel for us to remember.
  • “A third error is the exact opposite of the second. It consists of giving automatic preference to non-Christian writers, on the assumption that they can be trusted to be more truthful than Christian writers, at least in the portrayal of human experience.” The argument is that unbelieving authors know evil character and conduct better than Christian writers, because they write from an unregenerate experience. But, as we well know, Christian writers know evil too, from their own experience as well as from the revelation of God in the Bible, where the truth about all evil is set forth, including the only answer to man’s evil – the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Is there anything you would add to these three “errors” in reading secular literature?


World Book Day: 50 Essential Books for Children

Today marks World Book Day (and night too!), a day to celebrate the world of books, reading, and libraries throughout the world. The annual event is celebrated with especially young readers in mind, and focused this year on “sharing stories and loving reading.”

In celebration of the event Abe Books rounded up the best books for young readers – 50 essential children’s books, prefaced by this fine note:

We might be a little biased, but we believe reading is an essential part of childhood. Teachers and schools can teach you many useful things (and some not so useful) but a steady diet of literature can ensure a child’s education never ends. Some kids are born bibliophiles, while others can’t be bothered with books. The challenge for any parent, teacher or librarian is finding the books that turn reluctant readers into voracious ones. But how do you know which children’s books will do the trick? Reading comes much easier if you read about what you love, so let your little reader decide. One book usually leads to another.

To help get you (and your young reader) started, we’ve gathered up 50 great books for kids. The list ranges from picture books for young children like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, to little novels for independent readers like The BFG and Stuart Little. Even if your child isn’t quite ready to read big books on their own, series like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia are fun to read out loud and will please children (and adults) of any age. Our list of the best books for children includes brand new books, Newberry Award-winners, and timeless classics you’ll remember from your own childhood. Head down the page to the comment section to leave your own suggestions! Happy reading.

We couldn’t agree more, and think you will find something for your youngster in this great list. Be sure to visit the link below to get a glimpse of the wonderful collage of colorful covers to these children’s classics. Won’t you take some time to read to your child today, or put a good book in his/her hands for them to read?

Source: The Best Books for Children

Published in: on April 23, 2018 at 10:26 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil

no-other-macarthur-2017In chapter three of his recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation trust, 2017), John Macarthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith. relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

He points out that there are many proposed answers (as well as outright attacks against God) to this question – the question known in theology as “theodicy”: “a defense of God’s righteousness in light of the reality that evil exists in the world He created” (p.51).

At one point he critiques the view most popular among evangelicals today – autonomy. His thoughts are worth sharing here:

…Autonomous theodicy teaches that the cause of evil is the abuse of creaturely free will. This is a very sentimental approach. It begins with the assumption that God would never willingly ordain evil; He would not decree a plan for His creation that unleashes so much misery into His universe. They also imagine, evidently, that human free will trumps everything else on God’s scale of values, so they often suggest that God had to allow for the possibility of evil in order to protect His creatures’ highly prized autonomy. The idea is sometimes articulated this way: ‘God wants you to love Him all on your own, not because He made you love Him.” A God who would willingly permit evil or sovereignly choose whom to save is a God whom some people just can’t live with, so they reinvent Him to reflect their own priorities – which in this case means an emphasis on the nobility and value of their own free will that frankly is found nowhere in the Bible (pp.52-53).

We’ll return to more from this important chapter at a later time, but I hope you can already see the direction Macarthur is going. As he states at the beginning of the chapter,

The existence of evil is not an issue that should put Christians on their heels. The answer to why God allows evil in the world is in the Bible. We can know it, we can thoroughly embrace it, and we can enjoy it. It’s not an inadequate answer, either. It fully accounts for God’s benevolence, His omnipotence, His holiness, and His wisdom. And it exalts His glory. In fact, the answer to the problem of evil begins and ends with God and His glory (p.50).

We’ll see more of that biblical answer next time.

Why Do We Attend Corporate Worship?

Another fine article in this month’s Tabletalk is found in the back. There, under the rubric “For the Church,” Jared Wilson has some fresh thoughts on “Attending Corporate Worship.”

Acknowledging at the outset that there are many good reasons for being in the Lord’s house for worship on Sunday (including the fact that God commands it!), Wilson gives four (4) reasons for gathering with our brothers and sisters each week for corporate worship:

  • As an encouragement to others
  • As an act of self-crucifixion
  • As a witness to your neighbors
  • As a foretaste of heaven

Let’s “break open” that second one and consider his thoughts on that point:

As an Act of Self-Crucifixion

Your church attendance is a rebellion against your sense of self-sovereignty. Oh, I know that sometimes the sermon is a little (or a lot) longer than you’d like, the songs aren’t quite to your taste, the people are too shy to welcome you properly or so exuberantly friendly that you feel overwhelmed. I know sometimes there are a million things you’d do differently if you were in charge. So just think how sanctifying going to church must be!

The gathering of the diverse and divinely empowered saints is a community organized in part to stifle the selfish human desire for autonomy. In a world where we encounter so much that caters to our sense of self-sovereignty, going to church can be a way of taking up our cross—not our will be done, but the Father’s, not our interests be first, but our brothers’—and in that regard, it is extremely helpful to our growth in Christlikeness.

Good thoughts as we prepare to meet the Lord and His redeemed tomorrow. May we begin already now to crucify our old man and put on our new man in Christ, so that our worship will be God-focused and not self-centered.

For the rest of his points, visit the link below.

Source: Attending Corporate Worship

Barbara Bush Leaves Legacy of Championing Literacy

Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

This past Tuesday one of our former first ladies (U. S. president George H. W. Bush’s wife) passed away, and one of Barbara Bush’s significant legacies was that of being a champion of literacy.

An oft-quoted phrase of “America’s grandma” is this one:

The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.

The School Library Journal today (April 20) had a nice tribute to her work on behalf of this cause, pointing to her special foundation and to her authorship of two children’s books written from the perspective of family dogs. Here is part of the tribute:

When former first lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday, literacy lost a great champion.

During her time in the White House, she created the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and also helped push for the National Literacy Act, which was passed by her husband, President George H.W. Bush, in 1991. Her daughter-in-law, former teacher and librarian and first lady Laura Bush, also made literacy one of her public causes.

“I think my Ganny would have wanted us to remember her by picking up a book and reading to our child, grandchild, or finding an opinion different then our own,” Jeb Bush, Jr. tweeted.

Barbara Bush wrote two children’s books: C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, both from the perspective of the family dogs. (According to the book covers, she “edited” C. Fred’s Story, and Millie’s Book was dictated to her.)

Bush also authored two memoirs. In an interview with NPR, her former editor, Lisa Drew, said that beyond being remembered as the wife of one president and mother of another, it was her passion and commitment to literacy that will be her legacy.

To read about Mrs. Bush’s work for literacy in America, visit the link below or visit the link to her foundation given in the quote above.

Source: Barbara Bush Leaves Legacy of Championing Literacy | School Library Journal

Published in: on April 20, 2018 at 8:55 PM  Leave a Comment  

Exciting Reformation (and Church History) Book News! “Here We Stand” is Here!

Today for our Thursday history feature we highlight some exciting new Reformation book news, along with a children’s/young people’s church history book.


At the top of the list is a special book hot off the press that was delivered earlier this afternoon. RFPA managing editor Alex Kalsbeek stopped in at seminary and brought with him freshly printed (and fresh-smelling!) copies of the RFPA’s latest publication Here We Stand: Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (cf. cover photo above).


The book is special because it is the fruit of the PRC Seminary’s October 2017 Reformation 500th Conference. The contents of the book are the expanded speeches given at that conference, the topics of which you will see on the flyer above. Three of our professors have contributions to the book (Profs. R. Cammenga, R. Dykstra, and B. Gritters), and the entire book is edited by Prof. Cammenga. The publisher gives this description on its website:

The great sixteenth-century church Reformation was so significant an event that virtually every church today is affected by that history, as well as its reforms in doctrine and life. This book demonstrates the impact of that historic event by focusing on a few aspects of the Reformation, including the crucial issues of justification by faith alone, the authority of scripture, and proper worship. This book also covers two lesser-known, yet significant aspects of the Reformation that began in 1517: the unique development of the Reformation in the Lowlands and the reformers’ response to the “radical reformation.”

The chapters included in this book are written by: Prof. Ronald L. Cammenga (editor), Rev. David Torlach, Prof. Barrett L. Gritters, Rev. Martyn McGeown, Prof. Russell Dykstra, and Rev. Steven Key.

While the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century may be over, your reading about it does not have to stop, and it ought not end with 2017. Be sure you  add this title to your Reformation reading list for 2018, and for years to come. You may obtain the title by visiting the RFPA website or visiting the Seminary bookstore. Or, become a RFPA book club member and receive all the new titles automatically – at a 35% discount!


The second new Reformation book you ought to have on your radar for reading (and purchase – cf. the deal below!) is Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, edited by Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (New Growth Press, 2018). The publisher provides this summary of the book:

Twenty-six liturgies, including historical introductions that provide fresh analysis into their origins, are invaluable tools for pastors and worship leaders as they seek to craft public worship services in the great tradition of the early Reformers.

Christians learn to worship from the generations of God’s people who have worshipped before them. We sing psalms, because thousands of years ago, God’s people sang them. Five hundred years ago, the leaders of the Reformation transformed Christian worship by encouraging the active participation and understanding of the individual worshiper. Christian worship today is built on this foundation. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have made worship resources from the Reformation era accessible by compiling the most comprehensive collection of liturgies from that era into newly translated modern English from the original German, Dutch, French, Latin, and early English.

The structure of the liturgies, language, and rhythm continue to communicate the gospel in word and sacrament today. They provide a deep sense of God’s call to worship and an appreciation for the Reformers as, first and foremost, men who wanted to help God’s people worship. This book will also be of great interest to theological scholars and students who wish to understand early Reformation leaders. A useful tool for individuals, Reformation Worship, can be used as a powerful devotional to guide daily prayer and reflection.

By providing a connection to Reformation worship, Gibson and Earngey hope that through their work readers will experience what John Calvin described to be the purpose of all church worship: “To what end is the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the holy congregations themselves, and indeed the whole external government of the church, except that we may be united to God?”

This fresh title is currently available at a 50% discount from the publisher as well as from Westminster Bookstore.

CFP_Gods Timeline Cover_LRG.jpg

Finally, a brand new title I ordered for myself (that is, for our home library and for our grandchildren in particular) but think I will also add to the seminary library is a wonderful summary of church history in graphic form. The book is God’s Timeline: The Big Book of Church History, produced by Linda Finlayson and published by CF4K (Christian Focus, children’s division, 2018).

While produced with children and young people in view, the colorful book of timelines and charts (16 timelines and 1 pull-out timeline poster) is sure to be of use to and appreciated by all age groups. I fell in love with it the minute I opened it up (visit the publisher’s page to see sample pages). Here is the description found on their site:

With colour illustrations, pictures, and pull–out timelines, this history book brings the church throughout the ages to life! Learn about the Early, Medieval and Missionary church, passing through key events such as the Council of Nicea and the Reformation – right through to the present day. Find out about the people God used and the impact they had on those around them – including us today!

With a retail price of $15.99 the hardcover book is a bargain. But you may also find it for sale on Christianbook.com for $11.99 (25% off). By all means add this book to your family and church library!