Risen Indeed

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Now is Christ risen from the dead. That cornerstone of the gospel was firmly laid through the revelation of the risen Lord himself as attested by many and faithful witnesses. The truth of this gospel is corroborated by the experience of the church, of believers of every age. Jesus lives! Raised he was by the Father, and Jesus’ resurrection was God’s answer to Christ’s ‘It is finished.’

Just ask the thousands upon thousands who found no peace in their own righteousness, who were troubled because of their sins, and who were engrafted by faith into Jesus Christ, crucified and raised. They found peace with God through Jesus. Why? Because the Christ who was delivered for our transgressions and raised for our justification entered their heart, and they by grace heard God’s word of righteousness through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

He lives! Just ask the countless throng of believers who in themselves are dead in trespasses and sins, but who have died and have been raised with Christ, who have been delivered from the bondage of sin and now have become servants of righteousness. How? Through the power of the living Lord. He is risen and is become the firstfruits of those who slept. Christ is the first begotten of the dead. He went through the grave into the glory of eternal life as the head of the church. The resurrection is begun, and it cannot possibly stop until all who belong to him and believe on his name and look for the city that has foundations have followed him in that glorious resurrection.

‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?… Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor.15:55-57).

Taken from Herman Hoeksema’s The Amazing Cross, chapter 6 “Risen Indeed,” based on Luke 24:34 (2nd ed. RFPA, 2018), 73-74.

And for your music meditation this Resurrection Sunday, hear this powerful recording of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” by the King’s College Choir.

“By Grace Alone” – A Blessed Summary Song of the Five Points of Calvinism

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Tonight the teachers and students of Heritage Christian School (where we have several grandchildren) gave a marvelous program of music and readings (Scripture and Reformed confessions) centered on the theme TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism.

While all the songs were fitting, there was one that stood out, perhaps in part because the lyrics were new to me and also because they so completely captured the doctrines of grace, as we often call them. The title of the song is “By Grace Alone,” and it was sung to the tune “Melita,” (also known as the “Navy hymn”) perhaps most commonly known as the hymn “Almighty Father, Strong to Save,” but also found in the PRC Psalter (#232 – “Expectancy of Grace” – based on Psalm 85).

I found the words on several websites; one said the author is unknown, while another gave as the author Rev. Paul Treick. If someone can help sort that out, it would be appreciated.

While the 5th and 6th grade-choir did not sing all of the stanzas of “By Grace Alone”, I post them here in complete form. You will readily see why they so faithfully present the truths of Calvinism.

By Grace Alone author unknown

1)
Thou art our God, and we thy race
Elected by thy sovereign grace.
Not by the works which we have done
But by the cross our vict’ry’s won,
Oh keep this truth within my heart,
That from it I may ne’er depart.

T
By nature we depraved did dwell
Under thy curse–deserving hell–
Sinful, corrupt in every part,
Not one pure motive in our heart.
Hadst thou not looked on us in grace,
We would remain a perished race.

U
In love eternal thou did chose
To save thy sheep; their bonds to loose,
No good did we within us have
To claim thy gracious plan to save.
Elected by thy grace alone;
Holy to stand before thy throne.

L
Incarnate did thy Son appear–
A sacrifice–a Lamb most pure;
To make atonement for his sheep
And perfectly thy will to keep.
Now cleansed from sin and righteous, we
Are sons and heirs eternally!

I
The blood of Christ by grace supplied
Was by thy Spirit’s pow’r applied.
Thy Spirit we could not resist,
Who breathed new life into our breast.
Our souls alive, which once were dead,
Sing praise to Christ, the Lord, our Head!

P
With all thy saints we are preserved
To enter heav’n–a place reserved.
Secure we’re kept within thy care,
Lest we be lost to Satan’s snare.
Oh Sovereign God, all praise to thee
For our salvation, full and free!

7)
This hymn of thanks, Oh Lord we bring;
For by thy grace alone we sing.
Employ our lives in every sphere,
Thy law to keep; thy Name to fear,
“By grace alone”–this doctrine pure–
Our only comfort doth secure.

Old Year’s Night with the Voices of Victory

As we end this year of our Lord 2018, we would like to invite you to end the year on a high, spiritual note – by worshiping the Lord in His house with His people (If you are looking for a place to worship, these churches have churches!) and by attending the special Voices of Victory concert tonight in downtown Grandville, MI from 8-11 pm!

Here are the details from our Facebook page and poster:

Our annual New Year’s Eve concert is tonight at First Reformed Church of Grandville (3060 Wilson Ave). A schedule somewhat subject to a few minutes added or subtracted here and there is: Sacred Harmonies 8:10-8:40, Voices of Victory 8:45-9:15, Covenant Chr. HS quartet 9:15-9:30, Collection for Georgetown Harmony Homes 9:35, S.H. 9:40-10:10, VOV 10:15-10:45, closing singing with audience 10:45-11. To God be the glory!

VOV-Old-Years-flyer-2018

Maybe the weather forecast sounds bad, but don’t let that deter you! It’s a short drive from wherever you are, and once there, you will be safe and warm! Love to see you there! And we hope we do! It promises to be a wonderful night of praise and fellowship. And the cause is a good one.

O, and the cookies and coffee are tasty and “on the house.” 🙂

Published in: on December 31, 2018 at 11:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Eve 2018 in Poetry and Song

On this Christmas Eve 2018 we share a couple of edifying items – one a classic Christmas poem and the other a beautiful choral piece we heard in a program recently. The latter is not strictly speaking a Christmas song and, yet, is certainly appropriate for the gospel of Christmas. The lyrics really point us to the second coming of our Lord, and from our perspective as NT Christians that is now our hope and prayer.

First, then, is this classic Christmas poem, penned by Welsh poet Henry Vaughn (1621-1695) and titled “Christ’s Nativity.” It may take you a few times to go through to get the sense, due to the seventeenth-century-style English, but the poem is a powerful tribute of praise to the Christ of Bethlehem and to the power of His person as the Savior.

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.
Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.
I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.
I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.

Secondly, the song we wish to feature is “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” and was written by Paul Manz (a Lutheran). The lyrics go like this (and to learn more about the context in which it was written, visit the link provided):

Peace be to you and grace from him
Who freed us from our sins,
Who loved us all and shed his blood
That we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord,
The Lord, Almighty God,
Who was and is and is to come;
Sing holy, holy, Lord!

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein,
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below,
For Christ is coming, is coming soon!

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,
And night shall be no more;
they need no light nor lamp nor sun,
For Christ will be their all.

This is a glorious performance of it I found on YouTube – by a famed British Boys Choir! Rejoice in Jesus’ second coming, even as we celebrate His first!

Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 5:59 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

At the “Evening of Praise” program tonight at Grandville High School Auditorium (an annual fundraiser for Heritage Christian School Foundation) we were privileged to hear a variety of vocal and instrumental music again. From piano duets to strings to voices in trios and groups, young and old joined in praise to God.

One of the numbers the Daling Family Trio sang was a song written by Stuart Townend and composed by the Gettys (Keith and Kristyn). The title is “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God,” (from their album “Hymns for the Christian Life”) and is based on a variety of Bible passages that speak of God’s wisdom , especially Rom.11:33.

Here are the beautiful lyrics to the song:

The perfect wisdom of our God
Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by His hand
And held together at His command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas,
The secrets of the stars are His;
He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The matchless wisdom of His ways
That mark the path of righteousness;
His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And O the mystery of the cross,
That God should suffer for the lost,
So that the fool might shame the wise,
And all the glory might go to Christ!

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”

The video below records Kristyn singing the song and shows the lyrics.

It was a good night for leading us into the worship of the day of our risen Lord tomorrow.

Soar around the Moon, carried by the music of Debussy | Aeon Videos

Not too late to squeeze in our “Friday Fun” item while also appreciating amazing video of the moon and a beautiful piece of classic music.

Below is the introduction; click on the link at the end to view the wonderful video.

Behold the handiwork of God – in creation and in creative music! Enjoy!

Vast lunar landscapes set to the aching, shimmering piano of Claude Debussy’s 1905 composition ‘Clair de Lune’ (French for ‘moonlight’) offer an enchanting melding of science and art through the interplay of light, texture and music. The video, which traces the flow of sunlight over the Moon’s surface, was created by NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio using images captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It was first shown at a celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary along with a live performance of Debussy’s music.

Source: Soar around the Moon, carried by the music of Debussy, in this breathtaking space flight | Aeon Videos

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

John Newton’s Conversion by “Amazing Grace” – March 10, 1747

JNewtonPic&QuoteSince we missed out on our weekly church history/archives post on Thursday (busy last couple of days), we will do so today.

According to the Church History Institute “daily story,” today, March 10, 1747 is the date of John Newton’s (1725-1807) conversion. This is their note about this:

1747

John Newton, a sailor on a slave ship, is converted to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He eventually becomes an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and a zealous abolitionist. “That 10th of March is a day much to be remembered by me; and I have never allowed it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748. For on that day the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”

 

“Today in Christian History” (part of Christianity Today) also noted it in their daily email, posting this additional information:

March 10, 1748: John Newton, the captain of a slave ship, converts to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He had been reading Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, and was struck by a line about the “uncertain continuance of life.” He eventually became an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” and a zealous abolitionist

You may find more on Newton at this Christian History link. Perhaps we know him most by his famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Belonging to the back ground of this classic song is this (taken from the above article):

After leaving the sea for an office job in 1755, Newton held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. Influenced by both the Wesleys and George Whitefield, he adopted mild Calvinist views and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He quit, was ordained into the Anglican ministry, and in 1764 took a parish in Olney in Buckinghamshire.

Three years after Newton arrived, poet William Cowper moved to Olney. Cowper, a skilled poet who experienced bouts of depression, became a lay helper in the small congregation.

In 1769, Newton began a Thursday evening prayer service. For almost every week’s service, he wrote a hymn to be sung to a familiar tune. Newton challenged Cowper also to write hymns for these meetings, which he did until falling seriously ill in 1773. Newton later combined 280 of his own hymns with 68 of Cowper’s in what was to become the popular Olney Hymns. Among the well-known hymns in it are “Amazing Grace,” “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” “O for a Closer Walk with God,” and “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

While there are thousands of editions of the singing of this hymn, perhaps my favorite is this one by Wintley Phipps. He also includes a little background on Negro spirituals and why the minor key is so important to “Amazing Grace.” Enjoy this amazing performance.

Grace-PRC-extAs an aside, if you are looking for a wonderful night of music, tonight Grace PRC is hosting its “Night of Music” fundraiser for the young people – in her new sanctuary. This is the note you will find on her website about it:

GRACE NIGHT OF MUSIC will be held THIS Saturday at 7:00 PM in the new sanctuary. Please join/support our Young People at this annual night of praise and convention fundraiser. This year’s lineup features the Voices of Victory, Covenant Quartet, and much more. Refreshments will be served following the program.

Maybe we will see you there! 🙂

The Attraction of the Psalms – W. R. Godfrey

Learning-love-psalms-Godfrey-2017From the first chapter of his new book Learning to Love the Psalms (Reformation Trust, 2017), W. Robert Godfrey gives us four (4) points about “The Attraction of the Psalms”:

Several features of the Psalms have been especially attractive to me. The first is the beauty of the language and the poetic expression of the great truths of the faith. Consider the simple words, ‘The LORD is my shepherd’ (Ps.23:1. How much comfort they have brought to many, many souls in distress.

…The second attraction is the discovery that the more you dig into the Psalter, the more you discover. Like all great poetry, the Psalms are like a mine with ever new depths to reach and ever more gold to find. They reward abundantly whatever effort we make to know them better.

Third, there are psalms for all occasions. The Psalms … mark all the important spiritual moments and emotions in the lives of the people of God. As John Calvin said, ‘I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all Parts of the Soul:” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.’ The Psalms teach us how to express our emotions to God in all the circumstances of our lives.

Fourth, the Psalms are full of Christ. They not only explicitly prophesy the coming of Christ…, but the message of the Psalms always pulls the soul to Christ and His great saving work. As was said in the ancient church, ‘Always a psalm in the mouth, always Christ in the heart.’ …The Psalms intensify our fellowship with Christ [pp.3-4].

*Note: This book is available for review in the Standard Bearer if you are interested, as I received a review copy from Ligonier last week.

If you wish to hear some beautiful Psalm music from the Psalter used by the PRC (as well as some other psalmody traditions, such as the Scottish Psalter), visit the YouTube channel of the PR Psalm Choir, directed by Mr. Josh Hoekstra (a sample video is provided below).

And don’t forget that TONIGHT is the second of the Psalm Choir concerts in the Grand Rapids, MI area – at First PRC in GR, beginning at 8:15 p.m.

Prayers of the Reformers (19)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this fourth Sunday of the new year we post another prayer from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

This is a prayer or hymn of Martin Luther and is taken from the section “A Calendar of Prayer.” The German title is “Es Wollt uns Gott genaedig sein,” taken from the first line.

You will find these words to be fitting for our worship today as well as for our life and labors in the week ahead.

May God unto us gracious be,
And grant to us His blessing;
Lord, show Thy face to us, through Thee
Eternal life possessing:
That all Thy work and will, O God,
To us may be revealed,
And Christ’s salvation spread abroad
To heathen lands unsealed,
And unto God convert them.

Thine over all shall be the praise
And thanks of every nation,
And all the world with joy shall raise
The voice of exultation.
For Thou the sceptre, Lord, dost wield
Sin to Thyself subjecting;
Thy Word, Thy people’s pasture-field,
And fence their feet protecting,Them in the way preserveth.

Thy fold, O God, shall bring to Thee
The praise of holy living;
Thy Word shall richly fruitful be,
And earth shall yield thanksgiving.
Bless us, O Father! bless, O Son!
Grant, Holy Ghost, Thy blessing!
Thee earth shall honor – Thee alone,
Thy fear all souls possessing.
Now let our hearts say, Amen.

Luther, 1524

This hymn has also been set to music by J.S. Bach, which you may find here along with a different English translation. For one version available on YouTube, see below.