Children in the Worship Service: Parental Chore and Blessed Calling

ordinary-MHorton-2014Once more I am going to pull a quotation from the ninth chapter  of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). That chapter, from which I have quoted twice already, is titled, you may remember, “God’s ecosystem.”

In that chapter Horton is stressing the organic idea of the church – the saints’ spiritual life together in Christ – which is ever being sustained and growing in God’s garden, through the “ordinary” means of grace, especially the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments.

Toward the end of this chapter, the author focuses on the important calling the church has to make sure her children are growing up in Christ too. Critical of what the modern church through her “youth ministries” has done, Horton calls for a return to the “ordinary” in this area too – instructing the youth through catechism and bringing them into the regular worship of the church.

Tonight I give you some of his thoughts on this, and I truly hope it is an encouragement to our younger couples with little children whom they may dread to take into the worship service or despair of taking to church. Listen carefully to these words:

Having four of my own, I understand the difficulty of having children in church. Our church has a cry room, where parents can still participate in the service to some extent, but it is a chore. Yet isn’t it a chore of parenthood? Eventually the parents decide when they will move out of the cry room. It is remarkable how early children learn habits of sitting and listening. Even if they doodle and daydream for a couple of years, these habits of participation in the communion of saints are like a trellis. These habits do not guarantee that everyone will eventually respond in faith, but they do make for better hearing of that gospel through which faith takes root and grows in our hearts.

Besides the concern for parents, many Christians wonder if it is good for children to have them in the regular service. After all, they cannot understand what is going on. But imagine saying that you’re not going to have toddlers at the table for meals with the family because they do not understand the rituals or manners. Or keeping infants isolated in a nursery with nothing but mobiles and squeaky toys because they cannot understand the dialogue of the rest of the family around them. We know, instinctively, that it’s important for our children to acquire language and the ordinary rituals of their family environment in order to become mature. Or imagine keeping our teens from their grandparents’ funerals because they don’t understand it. We take them precisely so they will, knowing that our patience (and theirs) will be rewarded in later years and that the event will itself be an opportunity for maturity. Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge. He learned the Psalter and the rhythms of the synagogue liturgy. When, as a young adult, he took up the Isaiah scroll to read about himself, he knew exactly where to roll it.

At the grammar stage, children are simply absorbing the language of Zion: the terms and ‘the pattern of the sound words’ (2 Tim 1:13) that we share with the wider body of Christ through the ages. I think that we are sometimes too worried about ‘imposing’ our faith on our children. After all, it’s a personal relationship with Jesus, and we do not want to interfere with their free will. [I hope you sense the author’s rightful use of sarcasm here.] We don’t think this way about the other things that they are learning by rote at this stage. We do not upbraid teachers for ‘imposing’ the alphabet or multiplication table. Our moral sentiments are not offended when parents correct poor grammar.

So, do not hesitate to take your young children to church tomorrow. And if necessary, to take them out when they are noisy or misbehave. Just remember to take them back in. They are learning to live in the presence of God and worship Him just as you did when you were taken by your parents. They are soaking up the words of the church and of Jesus their Savior. They are growing roots and growing up as tender shoots in God’s garden. What better place could they possibly be? Never minimize what God is at working doing in them through His “ordinary” means of grace.

Besides, those cries of distress (or for mercy!) as you take them out are music to the hearts of their fellow, older saints. We support you, parents, in this “chore” that is also a marvelous duty.

Covenant Christian High Turns 50

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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!

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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).

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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.

Grammar Quiz Review – Resolved to Learn More in 2018

hero-blue-bookFor our Wednesday post this week we will return to grammar, compliments of GrammarBook.com, only this time to take a quiz – a jumbo pop quiz! – to use the words of the website.

They call it a “year-end” quiz, since the 25 questions review various grammar lessons posted last year. But let’s call it our year-beginning quiz, part of our New Year’s resolution to use better grammar in speaking and in writing.

This is how GrammarBook introduces the quiz:

In 2017 we explored an array of ways to enhance your grammar and writing. We hope what you learned follows you well into 2018 as you continue your aim to communicate with even greater precision and eloquence.

The quiz includes twenty-five sentences addressing a range of subjects. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz. For your convenience and reference, each answer in the key also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic.

OK, now, go ahead and get started! Have fun, do well, and keep learning! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 You will find that answer key at the link provided above.

Jumbo Pop Quiz: 2017 in Twenty-five Questions

1. Jennifer is still choosing [between / among] three job offers: bank supervisor, financial analyst, or portfolio manager.

2. The principal has [appraised / apprised] us of the changes to school policy.

3. The coach [substituted / replaced] the bigger, slower player [with / for] a smaller, quicker one.

4. My uncle owns a [40-foot / 40-ft.] house boat.

5. The salesperson gave us three [choices / options] of current LED TV models to pick from.

6. My favorite book is [“To Kill a Mockingbird” / To Kill a Mockingbird] by Harper Lee.

7. Robert is an [honest, hard-working / honest hard-working] man.

8. The due date for the invoice is [September 1 / September 1st].

9. When hiring website developers for our company, we always look for [experts / trained experts] in JavaScript and SQL.

10. I [made the decision / decided] to attend grad school after earning my bachelor’s degree.

11. Jason is averse [to / of] doing the military press in the weight room because it’s adverse [against / to] his right shoulder.

12. By holding an auction for rare memorabilia, the VFW raised more than $60,000 [on behalf of / in behalf of] families of deceased or wounded veterans.

13. Between you and [I / me], I think the restaurant is way overpriced.

14. Please return the supplies you don’t use to Mark or [me / myself].

15. [Young people / Youth] today have to contend with more distractions.

16. The review panel found the film to be an [exploitive / exploitative] treatment of postmodern feminism.

17. Crystal composed her essay much (differently from how / differently than) Christian wrote his.

18. The house across the street belongs to the Sanchez family. The SUV in the driveway is the [Sanchez’s / Sanchezes’] car.

19. The lack of voter participation [affected / effected] the outcome of the election.

20. The band eventually left their rented practice space because of the [continual / continuous] drip from the ceiling. It never stopped while they tried to play.

21. The crowd [is / are] so large that the city may need to request extra security from the neighboring town.

22. For the following sentence, identify whether the verb used is a transitive or intransitive verb and whether the pronoun is a direct or indirect object:
Mrs. Johanssen likes to bring [transitive / intransitive] us [indirect / direct] freshly baked cookies every Sunday after church.

23. Peter is always ready to help [whoever / whomever] might be struggling with the assignment.

24. Which salutation punctuation would be appropriate for informal correspondence between good friends?
a) Dear Susan,
b) Dear Susan:

25. [Most importantly / Most important], her credit cards weren’t in her wallet when she lost it.”

Published in: on January 10, 2018 at 10:29 PM  Comments (1)  

The Death of Scholarship – Commentary

This powerful article on the current state of scholarship in the major universities and colleges of the U.S. appeared in the online version of Commentary magazine on Nov.13, 2017.

In it, author Warren Treadgold speaks forthrightly about how the left in America has taken control of the academic world and with its “progressive” ideology removed not merely the voice of conservative thinking (and any contrary thinking) but also the opportunity for conservatives to speak. They have done so by killing any true scholarship.

While the author’s point has broad application in the academic world, it also has narrower application for those of us who are Christians and function in the academic world. But it also has implications for all Christians and their voice in the “public square.”

Below are a few segments from Treadgold’s piece; find the rest at the link above.

Leftist professors have no such inhibitions. In their opinion, there can be no legitimate reason for scholarship except to pursue “the concerns of the present” and conduct “a search for new meaning and a rigorous testing of old bromides.” The works of Shakespeare or any other great men are of no use except to illustrate currently fashionable ideology. Moreover, since the only point of scholarship is to advance ideology, questions of accuracy are irrelevant. In combating racism, sexism, classism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, elitism, and other evils, the genuine study of literature, political science, philosophy, history, art, and religion is quite incidental. Scholarship done for nonideological purposes, perhaps especially if it faithfully represents the past in its own terms, can only serve to reinforce an unjust society and culture.

This attitude inevitably dominates not only academic scholarship but also college teaching. In 2015, the New York Times columnist Frank Bruni denounced Republican efforts to cut funding for higher education by describing how he had been “transformed” by a marvelous course in Shakespeare he took from an outstanding teacher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1980s. He promptly heard from his old teacher, now at the University of Pennsylvania, that such courses on “dead white men” are thoroughly out of favor in English departments today. “Shakespeare,” she told Bruni, “has become Shakespeare and Film, which in my cranky opinion becomes Film, not Shakespeare.” She advised him to look at the current course offerings of Penn’s English department—“Pulp Fictions,” “Sex and the City,” “Global Feminisms,” “Comic Books and Graphic Novels,” “Psychoanalysis, Literature, and Film,” and “Literatures of Psychoanalysis.” The sort of class that Bruni loved 30 years ago is not the sort that universities now teach.

“A shelf in my head.” C. H. Spurgeon

spurgeon_sm1I appreciated this recent devotional that appeared on Grace Gems (October 15, 2017). Taken from Charles H. Spurgeon’s popular devotional book Morning by Morning, it shows the importance of Christ for all of our knowledge and understanding. It is my hope that it profits you as well.

A shelf in my head!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Before I knew the gospel I gathered up a heterogeneous mass of all kinds of knowledge from here, there, and everywhere–a bit of chemistry, a bit of botany, a bit of astronomy, and a bit of this, that, and the other. I put them altogether, in one great confused chaos.

When I learned the gospel, I got a shelf in my head to put everything in its place, just where it should be.

It seemed to me as if, when I had discovered Christ and Him crucified, I had got the center of the system, so that I could see every other science revolving around in order.

From the earth, you know, the planets appear to move in a very irregular manner–some are progressive, retrograde, stationary, etc. But if you could get upon the sun, you would see them marching round in their constant, uniform, circular motion.

Likewise with human knowledge. Begin with any other science you like–and truth will seem to be amiss. But if you begin with the science of Christ crucified, you will begin with the sun–and you will see every other science moving around it in complete harmony.

The old saying is, “Go from nature–up to nature’s God.” But it is hard work going up hill. The best thing is to go from nature’s God–down to nature. If you once get to nature’s God, and believe Him and love Him–it is surprising how easy it is to hear music in the waves, and songs in the wild whisperings of the winds; to see God everywhere, in the stones, in the rocks, in the rippling brooks; and to hear Him everywhere, in the lowing of cattle, in the rolling of thunder, and in the fury of tempests.

Get Christ first, put Him in the right place–and you will find Him to be the wisdom of God in your own experience.

The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

As we come to the close of this Reformation month, an important subject we have not yet touched on is Christian education. Just as the Reformers, by returning to the fundamental truths of the Word of God, impact all areas of the Christian life, so too did they influence the realm of education.

The special Lutheran website, The Hausvater Project (German for house-father, calling fathers to lead their homes in God’s ways, according to Luther’s own comments in his Small Catechism), recently highlighted this aspect of the Luther’s reforming work.

Below is a portion of the article by Ryan MacPherson, as he asks and answers five basic questions in this article:

  1. What Should Be Taught?
  2. How Should It Be Taught?
  3. To Whom Should It Be Taught?
  4. By Whom Should It Be Taught?
  5. How Shall We Honor Luther’s Legacy Today?

Though written for a Lutheran audience, this article may also be read for profit by us Reformed folk, and by all Protestant Christians. Read this part, and then read the rest at the link below.

Martin Luther may be best known for his theological reformation of the medieval church, which had strayed from the pure teaching of God’s Word. Luther did not, however, pursue his theological aims in isolation from other concerns; his writings touch upon politics, social life, and the arts. He also recognized the importance of education, both for the church and for the civil realm.

In 1520—after nailing the 95 Theses but before saying “Here I stand” at Worms—Luther published “An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.” Developing the sola scriptura principle of the Reformation, Luther wrote that “the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil.” Although he encouraged the universities to teach classical languages, to assign readings in the church fathers, and (cautiously) to glean insights from Aristotle and other pagan authors, Luther above all emphasized the value of the biblical languages and he sternly warned: “I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.”

Source: The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

Summer Grammar Check! Verb-Car Passengers (Those Important Particles)

hero-blue-bookIn a recent GrammarBook.com post verbs were featured once again, only this time what are called verbal particles. Or, continuing the car/driving figure, they are referred to as “verb-car passengers.”

So today, as a follow-up to that previous post on verbs, we feature this one. Because, yes, though it is the middle of summer, we must still keep our grammar straight. No grammatical slouching allowed! Buckle-up, here we go!

Understanding Verb Particles

As noted in a recent GrammarBook e-newsletter article, verbs form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. They determine the direction and speed of a sentence.

Sometimes, we’ll spot other words riding with them in the passenger seat. They’re not verbs, but they still attach themselves with seat belts secured. We accept and use those words because we know the main verb needs them for where we want to go in expressing ourselves.

These verb-car passengers are referred to as verb particles. Verb particles are the add-ons in verb phrases with idiomatic meanings—i.e., their definition is not obvious from the words creating the phrase.

Consider a sentence such as “She looked up the number in her cell phone’s contact list.” The verb is “looked.” The verb particle is “up.” A literal, non-idiomatic reading of the words alone would lead us to think she was physically looking up, perhaps toward the sky or a ceiling. Idiomatically, however, we understand she is retrieving the number from her phone.

Some other common verb particles are “in,” “off,” “down,” “over,” and “out,” as used in the following examples:

Facing constituent pressure, the governor gave in to the Senate’s proposed legislation.
Would you please break off a piece of that chocolate bar for me?
Analysts agree the company’s bold marketing campaign will beat down the competition.
That’s a tough question. Let me mull over my answer for a while.
Will you be checking out of your room soon?

Here are several more verbs that include particles to achieve their meaning:

bog down shape up
break away single out
burn down sleep in
flip out sum up
head out wind up
hold up wrap up


As shown here, the verb particle is often needed to convey the right idea. At the same time, we need to watch for particles that seem like they belong but make the phrase a tautology—e.g., continue on, close down. These examples would not lose meaning or clarity without the particle and thus are not idiomatic.

In certain other cases, a particle might create a tautology, but we still need it for proper writing and speech. One such instance involves the verb “sit,” which by definition does not need the particle “down” for clarity. However, imagine using “sit” instead of “sit down” when addressing a person instead of a dog.

It’s always easier to use and ride with a particle in your verb car when you know what it is, why it’s there, and, equally important, if it belongs. Just determine if together the verb and particle are idiomatic and not tautological. If so, leave them connected and keep your content cruising along.

If not, pull over, let the passenger out, and wish it the best in finding another good sentence.

Raising readers: the surprising power of reading aloud – Reformed Perspective

Once again an article has appeared (in my email box this morning, in fact!) about the benefits of reading to our children, beginning at an early age. Amanda Poppe posted the article “Raising Readers: The Surprising Power of Reading Aloud” last week on the Reformed Perspective website (July 27).

I always find these types of article encouraging, and we parents and grandparents need the constant reminder of the power that reading TO our children has. So, by all means, read this brief post and be encouraged to begin and carry on this valuable practice with your children. And, of course, model good reading to them by reading yourself!

Below are the opening paragraphs of the article; find the rest at the link below.

Of all the skills our children need to master, reading is at the top of the list. Children who read fluently do well in school, while poor readers struggle because the entire curriculum is based on the ability to read. Reading opens up incredible opportunities; in contrast, illiteracy is related to poverty and crime.

But success in life is not our main motive for raising readers. We want our children to love words so that they will be daily readers of the Word. The Bible is a challenging book, and our children need to be able to read and understand it in order to grow in their relationship with God. That’s why raising readers is a priority for Christians.

 Start early…

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease provides a valuable resource for parents, teachers and anyone else involved with children. With carefully documented research and compelling stories, he tells us the most important thing we must do is read aloud to our children. Trelease points out that reading is like any other skill: you get better at it by doing it.

But how do we get our kids to want to read in the first place? Children gravitate to activities they find enjoyable. How do we give them a love for reading?

We must read to them daily. Reading aloud brings to life the characters, places and adventures that are hidden between the covers of books. Children learn that books hold exciting stories. Young children associate books with cuddle times with their favorite person. As the family matures, books become the vehicle for countless conversations and laughs, shared memories and ideas. In this environment, children naturally fall in love with books.

At the end of the post is this helpful summary of the main points Trelease makes in his book on reading aloud to children. Here is the first section:

MAKE READING OUT LOUD A PRIORITY

  • Make it a habit by setting a specific time. Doesn’t matter when – before bed, after lunch, naptime, or school – it just has to be a daily appointment.
  • Model reading. Children should see you reading for enjoyment.
  • Have books in the house.
  • Visit the library regularly.
  • Read out loud every day for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Keep reading to children even after they learn to read.
  • Get the grandparents reading to your kids.
  • Read to your infants – long before they can talk, they are language sponges.

Source: Raising readers: the surprising power of reading aloud – Reformed Perspective

By the way, it would be worth your while to sign up to receive a summary of the articles posted at Reformed Perspective. A variety of relevant subjects and news items are reviewed each week from the perspective of the Reformed world and life view (Scripture and the creeds).

Reading Jules Verne This Summer Could Introduce Endless Adventure

This informative and challenging post appeared earlier this month (July 6, 2017) on The Federalist. In it Jamie Gass points to studies that show that students who read during the summer months are better prepared for school in the Fall. And to encourage students to read books that are adventurous as well as educational, Gass points to the works of French novelist Jules Verne.

Even though we are well into the summer months, it is not too late to get your child or teen to spend some time reading good literature in the month leading up to the start of the new school year.

Below you will find the opening paragraphs of the article and then part of the section that references Verne’s writings.

“[M]y task is to paint the whole earth, the entire world, in novel form, by imagining adventures,” wrote the renowned, late-nineteenth-century French novelist Jules Verne.

As vacation begins, decades of K-12 education research tells us that summertime is when the academic paths of higher- and lower-performing students most radically diverge. According to Scholastic Reading Challenge, “the ‘Summer Slide’ accounts for as much as 85 percent of the reading achievement gap.”

Simply put, studies support what common sense makes plain: students who read during the summer return to school much better prepared than their classmates do. Meanwhile, great fiction that offers higher-quality vocabulary, complex plots, and engaging characters can positively shape young minds.

A little later in the article the author comments on the significance and value of Verne’s works:

Monsieur Verne is considered the “father of science fiction” for his books “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864); “From the Earth to the Moon” (1865); “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1870); and “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1873), which are the most noted of his “Extraordinary Voyages.” Verne’s 60-plus classic works have been translated into 174 languages.

Verne’s voyages value literature, history, geography, math, science, and high-tech engineering. Few authors are capable of propelling students’ imaginations while simultaneously surveying such varied academic disciplines. Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy called Verne’s books “matchless.” Since 1979, UNESCO’s Index Translationum reports, Verne is the second most-translated author on earth, outpacing Shakespeare and trailing only Agatha Christie.Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” ranks as the seventh most-translated book in the world, surpassing “Harry Potter,”Alice in Wonderland,” and even Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales.

Source: Reading Jules Verne This Summer Could Introduce Endless Adventure

If you want to get started reading Around the World in Eighty Days, visit this Project Gutenberg link.

The Internet Is Not a Library

As a librarian in an academic institution (PRC Seminary), I appreciated these brief but pointed thoughts of pastor Kevin DeYoung yesterday about the fact that the Internet is not to be viewed or treated as a library.

He takes his starting point in a new book by Tom Nichols, which is one I would like to pursue.

Below are a few paragraphs from his post. I encourage you to read the rest, especially the next paragraphs, because there he states rather bluntly how the Internet is to be viewed and used.

I’ll have more to say about Tom Nichols’s excellent new book The Death of Expertise in the days ahead, but for now I want to underline one important observation he makes.

Namely: “The Internet . . . is nothing like a library” (110).

In the recent conversation about who’s in charge of the Christian blogosphere, I saw in at least one place that the blogosphere was likened to a great big library—a place where diverse viewpoints are housed, a place where people come to seek truth, a place where ideas are not censored and readers need discernment. Without wanting to deny these general points as they relate to Christians in the blogosphere, I believe it is a necessary part of discernment that we realize the internet (of which the Christian blogosphere is a part) is nothing like a library.

Yes, a library has many different volumes. And yes, we can go there to search for answers and acquire knowledge. But a library is a highly curated collection of knowledge. We have a Michigan State University librarian in our church. She has a master’s degree in library science. She oversees a section of materials related to European history. She is constantly reading through journals and periodicals to find the most important new books to purchase. She also gets rid of old stuff that has proven to be relatively worthless. She is also a wealth of information when people have questions about where to find the best, most important stuff. She doesn’t have an ideological grid when it comes to what goes in the library, but she does have an expertise grid. Almost all the books that get into a library like MSU’s are by people with credentials, with academic positions, or with institutional legitimacy.

Source: The Internet Is Not a Library | TGC

His comments reminded me of the coffee cup I keep on my library desk. I believe I showed you this once before, but this post gives me opportunity to do so again. 🙂