WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – WORLD

As we near the end of the year of our Lord 2018, it is good to reflect on all that has transpired according to the sovereign plan and providence of our almighty God in this year. That, after all, is what we believe all the events of history are – the unfolding of our God’s perfect plan through His mighty providential hand. And, we also add this, that all these events of history – of 2018 too – are for the salvation of Christ’s church and the good of His redeemed and renewed people.

Many news sources produce year-end summaries of the year’s major stories, which are useful in helping us to reflect on the more significant events of the year. World Magazine (a Christian news source) has also produced its summary of the major stories it reported online throughout 2018. It included this list of 25 items today as part of its “Saturday Series” (which often feature books, writing, reading), and I thought it worth your while to point you to it here.

What follows here is the little blurb that introduced the list; after that I post here the last five news items (which were published at the “top” of the list on their website).

In 2018, WORLD’s online readers were drawn to major cover stories and timely features from the magazine, daily news reports from The Sift, and insightful Saturday Series essays. But issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality were often foremost in the minds of our readers this past year, as the website’s weekly Relations roundup makes multiple appearances in our countdown of the 25 articles that grabbed your attention the most.

25. A long way from home

Before getting lost in a cave, Adul Sam-on found direction for his future at a Thai church and school

by Angela Lu Fulton
July 13 | WORLD Magazine | Features

24. Moody Bible Institute leaders resign amid turmoil

Moody Bible Institute announced Wednesday the resignation of President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck amid ongoing turmoil following staffing cuts

by Leigh Jones
Jan. 11 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

23. Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women

by Lynde Langdon
April 23 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

22. Facing cultural storms

Six trends that are rapidly reshaping the lives of American Christians

by John S. Dickerson
Nov. 24 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

21. Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Leigh Jones
March 13 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

Find the other 20 top stories at the link below.

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – Media – WORLD

Recent Pick-ups for Winter Reading

I have recently collected a few books for winter reading that I thought I would share with you. A couple I have already started, while the others will have to wait for later.


I am always on the lookout for books relating to local (Grand Rapids, Ottawa County) and Michigan history, and a while back I found this one in a thrift store – White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America’s Deadliest Maritime Disaster – by David G. Brown (International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2002). I really wanted to read this one last month (November), but it will have to wait. If you want to watch a video presentation by the author on this incredible storm and the havoc it wreaked on the Great Lakes, go here.


Another recent purchase ($5 for the hardcover at Ollies discount store in Wyoming – a treasure trove for new books – and Bibles – and children’s titles!) is noted historian Nathaniel Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking, 2016). The publisher gives this summary of the book:

A surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.


Did you know Christian author Douglas Bond has a brand new title out?! The Resistance is his latest historical novel and it looks to be another great read.  I am looking forward to delving into this one – and hopefully getting my older grandsons into it too.

Here’s the description and one blogger’s description:

Lt. Eli Evans, B-17 bomber pilot, is shot down over enemy-occupied France in 1944. Surrounded by Resistance fighters, a licensed-to-kill SOE British agent, and Marxist sympathizers, Evans and his navigator must evade a ruthless Nazi manhunt if they are to survive. Resistance sympathizer Aimée hates war but is forced to act with courage, risking her life for others. Amidst ambush and sabotage, the combatants will debate broadcast talks by C. S. Lewis, heard as they listen to the BBC for coded messages from London.
“True to form, Douglas Bond delivers yet another historical novel sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of both the young and the old. Readers will thrill at the high-stakes, fast-paced cat and mouse game …tension hovering above an 8 on a 0-10 scale. From the moment the B-17 crashes, until the invasion of Normandy; time (and pages) seemed to fly by.”
AMANDA GEANEY, book blogger at Shelf Esteem


Speaking of children and grandchildren, I also just bought a copy of the “Coloring Book of Church History” titled A Colorful Past, by William Boekestein and Naomi Kamphuis (Illustrator), published by Reformation Heritage Books (2018). This brief description will give you an idea of its contents and purpose:

This coloring book introduces children to important characters from church history, focusing on at least one person per century. The basic timeline illustrates how God has woven humanly flawed characters into a single living story. And this story is not over. As children color these pages and see God’s unfolding plan in church history, pray they will learn to praise God for the “wonderful works that He has done” (Ps. 78:4).


And, finally, one I found at a recent Baker Books sale and have started to read is They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims by Jay Milbrandt (Nelson Books, 2017). I have always enjoyed early American history, in part because of its Christian – even Calvinistic – character (at least some aspects of it), and the story of the Pilgrims has always intrigued me. This is my first exposure to this author, and so far I find his style lively and instructive.

Amazon gives this description of the book:

Once a year at Thanksgiving, we encounter Pilgrims as folksy people in funny hats before promptly forgetting them. In the centuries since America began, the Pilgrims have been relegated to folklore and children’s stories, fairy-tale mascots for holiday parties and greeting cards.

The true story of the Pilgrim Fathers could not be more different. Beginning with the execution of two pastors deviating from the Elizabethan Church of England, the Pilgrims’ great journey was one of courageous faith, daring escape, and tenuous survival. Theirs is the story of refugees who fled intense religious persecution; of dreamers who voyaged the Atlantic and into the unknown when all other attempts had led to near-certain death; of survivors who struggled with newfound freedom. Loneliness led to starvation, tension gave way to war with natives, and suspicion broke the back of the very freedom they endeavored to achieve.

Despite the pain and turmoil of this high stakes triumph, the Pilgrim Fathers built the cornerstone for a nation dedicated to faith, freedom, and thankfulness. This is the epic story of the Pilgrims, an adventure that laid the bedrock for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the American identity.

For more on this book, visit the publisher’s marketing page.

Happy reading this fall and winter! What’s in your book bag? 🙂

Killing Lincoln – My Late Summer Read

Saturday, March 4, 1865
Washington, D.C.

The man with six weeks to live is anxious.

He furls his brow, as he does countless times each day, and walks out of the Capitol Building, which is nearing completion. He is exhausted, almost numb.

Fifty thousand men and women stand in pouring rain and ankle-deep mud to watch Abraham Lincoln take the oath of office to begin his second term. His new vice president, Andrew Johnson, has just delivered a red-faced, drunken, twenty-minute ramble vilifying the South that has left the crowd squirming, embarrassed by Johnson’s inebriation.

So when Lincoln steps up to the podium and delivers an eloquent appeal for reunification, the spiritual message of his second inaugural address is all the more uplifting. ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,’ the president intones humbly.

killing-lincoln-oreilly-2011Such is how Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever (Henry Holt, 2011) begins (Prologue), which has become my late summer history read. And a few chapters into the book, I am enjoying it immensely. The Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency were a critical time in our country’s history, and I need to regain the knowledge of this period and leader. And as the sub-title states, the assassination of this powerful leader “changed American forever.” That is the focus of this book.

You may know that O’Reilly and Dugard have combined to write several “killing” stories, including Killing England, Killing Reagan, and Killing Jesus. Well, I had heard good things about these books but had never read one myself. A few weeks ago I was in Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, browsing the used biography section and came on this title on Lincoln, so I grabbed it – a first edition hardcover for $7.00 – a bargain.

I would be interested in what you may have read in this series and what you think of it – and whether you have any other suggestions for what to read next in the series, if I continue to like it.

Published in: on August 29, 2018 at 10:37 PM  Comments (4)  

Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution – Lecture by Allen Guelzo

Today Kevin Rau (my library assistant) and I took in a special lunch-time lecture at the Acton Institute in downtown Grand Rapids. We did one last you too and enjoyed it, so we thought we would try another. The advertised subject and speaker drew us in – a talk on a prominent president’s faith by a prominent American Civil War historian and Lincoln scholar.

This was was held in the Murray Auditorium in the lower level of the Acton Institute and featured Dr. Allen C. Guelzo speaking on “Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution.” As noted on the Action website for this lecture, “Allen Guelzo, Ph.D. is the Director of Civil War Era Studies and the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During 2017-18, he has served as the Wm L. Garwood Visiting Professor in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.” And as for his topic, this brief description too is given on the website:

As one of only two presidents to have never formally joined a church, people have wondered just how much Abraham Lincoln himself was under God when he said that the United States should consider itself as such as it strove for a new birth of freedom.

However, the Civil War shifted the ground decisively under Lincoln’s feet. In the cauldron of war, he discovered that God was not merely a remote force or a faceless universal power, but a personal, intelligent, and willing God who intervened in the affairs of men, to direct them in ways that they could not even begin to imagine.

This was a God whom he wanted his nation to be under.

We both found the speech interesting and edifying. Guelzo is an gifted and engaging speaker. He knows the history of the Civil War period well, is an expert in all things Lincoln, and communicates in a lively manner. The Q&A period was filled with good questions and wonderful anecdotal stories on Lincoln by Guelzo.

Guelzo is the author (among other books) of the award-winning book Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, part of the “Library of Religious Biography” published by William B. Eerdmans here in GR. The book won prestigious the 2000 Lincoln Prize. Amazon has the new paperback edition (2002) listed at 55% off.

And we close with a few good Lincoln quotes, perhaps showing that Lincoln was indeed more than a “Calvinist Deist” (as Guelzo refers to him in his biography, a description that was the subject of one of the questions today.)

I am much indebted to the good christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of them, more than to yourself. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.
Letter to Eliza Gurney on September 4, 1864 (CWAL VII:535)

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
Letter to Albert G. Hodges on April 4, 1864 (CWAL VII:282)

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865 (CWAL VIII:333)

Source: Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution | Acton Institute

Man Finds Thomas Jefferson in a Dumpster! (Some of His Rare Books, That Is)

Before this Friday is over, we need to take time for a “fun” item, and for that we turn to this great story that appeared this week on “Inside Edition.” It is one of those rare book tales that boggles the mind and stirs up one’s own dream of falling on such volumes.

Well, I’ve teased you with the story – the headline has given you its content. Now read on to find out what this man found in a Nevada dumpster. The full story is at the link below.

Max Brown doesn’t usually dumpster dive, but on a day in 2014, he was scavenging through a Nevada garbage bin for a community service project when he spied old 1980s-era cassette tapes.
He scooped them up, and saw underneath a pile of very old books. He gathered as many as he could, and scampered out of the receptacle as it began to rain.
Thus began a journey of many stops and starts that would ultimately connect him to people he’d never before met, and to one of the country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

*Image courtesy of CBS News

The ancient and well-worn books sat in his South Lake Tahoe home for some six months before he and a friend carefully turned the manuscript’s fragile pages. They also found old notes and family photos.

Inside one of the books was a handwritten note: “From the library of Thomas Jefferson.” The tome was one of two volumes written by French Catholic theologian and philosopher Pierre Charron. The books were written in French. The publication date was 1621.

Source: Inside a Dumpster, California Man Finds Trove of Ancient Books Owned by Thomas Jefferson

Published in: on August 3, 2018 at 9:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Before the Lease Runs Out: Summer Reading List for 2018 – Albert Mohler

It may seem late in the summer already, but if we go by the official calendar, we have two-thirds of this wonderful season to go yet. With that in mind, though Dr. Al Mohler’s summer reading list may seem to have arrived late, there is still plenty of time to pick one or two from his great list (heavy on history – yes!) and enjoy a good read.

Released on July 11, Mohler’s list of ten books contains stories of significant events from a wide spectrum of history. I pick out just two of them that stand out to me, along with parts of his description. For the entire list, visit the link below.

4. Donald Rumsfeld, When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency (Free Press).

The American political crisis of 1972-1974 is virtually unparalleled in the nation’s history–and for that we must be thankful. For most citizens today, the Watergate crisis and the fall of the Nixon presidency are distant memories, if remembered at all. One of the most neglected figures, unexpectedly central to this story, was Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States. Ford became Vice President of the United States in 1973 and President in 1974, without being elected to either office. Then, against all odds, he came close to being elected president in his own right in 1976. Rumsfeld, who was himself central to the story, gives us a front-row seat at one of the turning points in American history. More than anything else, Rumsfeld wants us to understand that Gerald Ford, who never wanted to be president until he unexpectedly was president, rescued the American presidency by his personal decency and calm. As a teenage political volunteer I worked for Ronald Reagan and against President Ford in the 1976 campaign for the Republican nomination. After Ford secured the nomination, I joined his campaign as a volunteer, mostly manning a phone bank. After the campaign of Reagan, fueled by ideas, the campaign of Gerald Ford was a let-down for me. But Donald Rumsfeld’s book reminds all of us of why we should be thankful that, when he had to choose the man who would shortly succeed him, Richard Nixon called Gerald Ford.

6. Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man (Simon and Schuster).

It tells us a great deal about the power of popular culture that most Americans probably learned of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis from Bartholomew Marion Quint, the hardened shark hunter of the movie “Jaws.” In the midst of their own epic shark hunt, Quint told the crew from Amity about the sinking, when 900 men went into the waters, and only 316 survived. In his telling, most of the men in the water were eaten by sharks.

There is truth in that account, but the real story of  the Indianapolis and its fate is a bigger story that “Jaws” could tell. The Portland-class heavy cruiser, once flag ship for Admiral Raymond Spruance and ship of state for President Franklin Roosevelt, was one of the most beautiful large ships in the Navy. She had suffered a devastating kamikaze attack and had just been repaired when she was sent on a secret mission to deliver the first atomic bomb to Tinian Island. Returning to port, the Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine attack. Of the almost 1,200 sailors on the ship, about 300 went down with the vessel. The 900 others went into the Pacific. They were in the middle of the vast ocean and no one would miss them for days. Miraculously spotted by a Navy plane after days at sea, only 316 men survived. The sinking of the Indianapolis remains the greatest sea disaster ever experienced by the U.S. Navy. The sharks did attack and the story is like a horror movie, but the rescue of the 316 did not end the story. The ship’s commander, Captain Charles B. McVay, was convicted in a Navy court-martial of dereliction of duty, but the court-martial proceeding was controversial from the start, and even Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas, did not believe Captain McVay should be blamed. The burden for the convicted officer was too much to bear, and he committed suicide years later, with a toy sailor in his hand.

And yet, amazingly enough, the story does not end even there. Fast forward to 1999 and the school project undertaken by a determined 13-year-old boy named Hunter Scott. The boy in Florida had heard about the Indianapolis when he watched “Jaws” with his father. As a sixth-grader he started a school project on the Indianapolis and would write to the survivors of the sinking. Eventually he came to believe that Captain McVay had been wrongly blamed. He got finally got the attention of political leaders in Washington. Then, as an eighth-grader, he, along with others, would testify before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. Captain McVay would eventually be exonerated.

This new book by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, released only on July 10, is a good example of how a story can be set straight. In this case, and in this book, we confront a big story that badly needed setting straight.

Source: Before the Lease Runs Out: Summer Reading List for 2018 –

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 10:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

July 2018 “Tabletalk” – The Eighteenth Century of the Church

The July 2018 issue of Tabletalk continues a series Ligonier has been doing for some years now on the centuries of church history. As you will judge from the cover, this one focuses on the eighteenth century (Can you identify the significant man whose image is on the cover?).

If you are like me, you probably do not know a lot about the history of the church in that century. Maybe in part because we so focus on the sixteenth century and the Reformation that we ignore God’s work in His church in subsequent centuries. But we ought not do that. If we believe, as our Heidelberg Catechism teaches us in Q&A 54, that Jesus Christ is at work gathering, defending, and preserving His elect church in every age (from the beginning of the world until the end!), then we may not neglect to study each century of church history. This month’s issue of “TT” will help us overcome both our ignorance and neglect of the eighteenth century.

Burk Parsons introduces the issue with his editorial “To the Ends of the Earth.” Pointing out that this was an era of mission fervor as well as of personal piety, Parsons tells us what we can gain from studying this century:

We study church history not merely to learn from and remember the past but to help us wisely serve and glorify God now and for the future. We look to the great figures of eras gone by in order to learn from their successes and failures. We examine their lives that we might be encouraged to imitate them insofar as they followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). For until Christ returns, we must be concerned to see the conversion and discipleship of our neighbors and the nations. As we labor toward this end, we must rest in the glorious truth that God is sovereignly fulfilling His purposes as He sovereignly works in and through us as His instruments. As some have said, history is a story written by the finger of God, and that story is centered around the history of the cross of Christ Jesus, who is coming again at the culmination of His mission, when the Great Commission has been fulfilled and all the elect have been saved from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

The first featured article is an overview of the century, and well worth your reading. “The Eighteenth Century: An Overview” by Dr. Nick Needham is linked below, but we quote from a portion of it here. Needham covers these main topics: “Enlightenment and Religion,” “The Kantian Revolution,” “Moravian Missions,” “The Church in America,” “Rome and the East,” and “Machines and Music.” How’s that for a  variety of significant subjects covering this century? While we could reference any of these sections this evening, I chose the last subject from which to quote. Let that be a good reason to read the rest of Needham’s article linked below.

Machines and Music

One last word on the eighteenth century—another paradox. On the one side, it was the century that witnessed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution—the birth of the machine age, with all its transforming impact on technology, society, and human thought patterns.

On the other side, the same “century of the machine” witnessed an outpouring of creative musical genius perhaps unsurpassed in history. Composers including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) ensured that music would never quite be the same again. Many of their works are explicitly Christian in nature and have provided spiritual as well as aesthetic inspiration to millions. Karl Barth captured this in a beautiful if half-humorous saying: “When the angels play music for God, they play Bach. When they play for themselves, they play Mozart.”

Tolle lege!

Source: The Eighteenth Century

For God and Country – The U.S. 4th of July 2018

For our Reformed reflection on this Independence Day 2018, I reference again (I did so also in 2012) a pamphlet with the above title written by Rev. Aud Spriensma, a home missionary-pastor of Byron Center (MI) PRC and former chaplain in the U.S. Army. This pamphlet is based on a speech he gave shortly after the traumatic event of 9/11 in this country, when patriotism not only ran high, but when there also seemed to be a greater national consciousness of God and an openness to the gospel (which quickly waned).

As one who has served our country as a military chaplain and who serves the church as a Reformed pastor, Rev.Spriensma is qualified and equipped to address the calling we Reformed Christians have toward “God and country”. Hence, his speech and the printed pamphlet that followed.

I will quote only a small portion of it (different from the previous time); you may find the entire pamphlet here. It would make for good reading and discussion at some point today. May we remember today, as we celebrate our nations 242nd birthday, that we are to live as those who are both for God and for country – true Reformed patriots.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Fourth Book, especially chapter 20, John Calvin argues against the notion that government is a polluted thing with which the Christian has nothing to do. Calvin writes: “The political state has indeed functions directly connected with religion. Government protects and supports the worship of God, promotes justice and peace, and is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven; as necessary as bread and water, light and air; and more excellent in that it makes possible the use of these and secures higher blessings to men.”

Notice how important government is. Rather than disparaging it as something corrupt and something to be avoided, John Calvin says it “is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage … as necessary as bread and water, as light and air, and more excellent…” Over against the Anabaptists, Calvin insisted that government is not of Satan, but is God-given, a benevolent provision for man’s good, for which man should give God thanks.

We need to hear that. Perhaps our cynicism has not been as great since 9/11. But cynicism is always there. Now several years later, when we discover that the reasons we went to war were flawed, the cynicism is rampant. We are able to find all kinds of abuses in government and then laugh and put government down. As believers, we need rather to give thanks to God for government. John Calvin writes in his Institutes, “the function of the magistrate is a sacred ministry, and to regard it as incompatible with religion is an insult to God.”

Politics is a rotten, dirty business? Patriotism is an idolatry? Absolutely not! Rather, we must insist that it is only the child of God who can really be patriotic; the Christian makes the best citizen because he obeys for God’s sake. He is subject to the powers that be because he loves God. Not only is it true that a Christian should be patriotic, but ultimately it is only the Christian who is truly patriotic. That is the kind of patriotism that should be taught to our children.

The Founding of Frankenmuth (Michigan) | Christian History Institute

Today’s “It Happened Today” feature from the Christian History Institute noted that on this date, May 3, 1891 the founder of the famous little Michigan town of Frankenmuth died.

For those of us who have made the trip to that beautiful little place and enjoyed its Christmas store and decorations (Bronner’s), its Bavarian themes, as well as its delicious chicken dinners (Zehnder’s), we marveled at the industrious German settlers and what they made of this once desolate area.

But maybe you didn’t realize the Lutheran Christian founding of this town. That’s what was featured in today’s church history note. Here’s an important part of the history of that little berg on the east side of Michigan:

Death of Friedrich August Crämer, Founder of Frankenmuth


The hardworking minister was a founder of Frankenmuth, MI and Lutheran educator.

WHEN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH in Germany appealed for Lutheran missionaries and ministers to go to the American frontier, Friedrich August Crämer answered the call. Born in Klein-Langheim, Bavaria in 1812, Cramer was arrested while a university student at Erlangen for his involvement in a plot to start a revolution. He went to prison a radical social activist but emerged a Christian, reasoning, “If Christ has redeemed lost and condemned sinners, then He has redeemed me also; because everything in me and in my life is lost…”

Pastor Wilhelm Loehe Loehe recruited German families to form a mission settlement in Michigan and become a “living book,” showing Native Americans what it was like to live with Christ as savior. He selected Crämer, a theology student, as their pastor.

In 1845, the Lutheran immigrants settled in Saginaw Valley, where they battled mosquitoes and broke ground for a town they named “Frankenmuth” (Courage of Franconia). They erected a few log cabins before winter, helped their pastor and his wife construct a place to live, and cleared land for next spring’s planting.

As soon as he could do so, Crämer began teaching Indian children, assisted by Jim Grant, his interpreter, who was half Chippewa. In time, he baptized thirty-one Indians. Although Crämer taught from his own home, he also visited the Chippewa Indians in their villages and ate their food with them. When the local Indians succumbed to western diseases, Crämer extended his work by building three mission stations, one at a distance of seventy miles. He visited each of these every month regardless of weather or his own state of health.

During 1846, close to one hundred additional German immigrants swelled Frankenmuth’s population. Up to this time, the community had been worshipping in the Crämer living room. Now it was apparent a church was needed. The settlers erected St. Lorenz Lutheran Church and dedicated it on Christmas Day. The date of dedication was appropriate, for Christmas would become a major day for Frankenmuth—which much later would call itself the Christmas capital of the world, with Christmas stores, restaurants, and retreats that stayed open year-round.

The Indian mission folded as the Indians migrated westward. Theological difficulties also arose when Lutherans teaching other, less-confessional doctrines arrived. To counter this, Crämer helped found the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and taught in its seminaries. His hearers considered him an excellent teacher. While teaching in St. Louis, he organized a congregation of Irish and German immigrants whom he served without pay as their church grew to over three hundred members. In 1881, he lost three of his grown children and two grandchildren. His wife’s health declined from the shock and in 1884 she died as well.

Unable to support its own growth, the seminary in St. Louis eventually split.  Part of the seminary moved to Illinois, and Crämer led the move despite his age. He continued to work himself relentlessly, and as a result, his health gave way. The Lutheran Witness of May 7, 1891 reported: “It is our sad duty to chronicle the bereavement of our synod and the Springfield Seminary by the demise of Rev. Prof. A. Crämer, late senior professor of our synod and president of our Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Ill. … he had been suffering from a severe attack of the grippe [influenza], and fell asleep in Jesus on the 3rd of May at 3.50 A.M.” Altogether, he had prepared six hundred and thirty five candidates for ministry.

Dan Graves

Source: It Happened Today | Christian History Institute

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