High Tech Shelf Help: Singapore’s Library Robot

This news item appeared yesterday in one of my library emailings, and I judged it worthy of a “Friday fun” post.

Librarians are a sensitive bunch, especially with so many tech geeks and digital gurus predicting our irrelevance and demise. Now we find out that we may be replaced by robots!

Although, I will say, this one serves a very useful purpose – finding misplaced books in the library – an annoyance any librarian would want help with!

So, enjoy this little news item about a Singaporean library robot; go ahead and take a poke at us librarians. But, remember, to err is not only human, but robotian. This cool device will make mistakes, and library patrons will still be looking for assistance from that real, physical, personal librarian.🙂

Here’s the beginning of the article; find the rest of it at the link below.

Library holdings are only useful if they’re findable. For print collections at least, even recommending the most relevant titles ultimately falls short if they’re not on the right shelf. However, the process of finding out if things have been properly shelved is time-consuming and never ending, as materials are continuously moved even if they don’t circulate outside the building. The task is often handled by support staff, interns, or volunteers, but Singapore’s National Library Board has a new alternative: a library robot, developed by researchers at the infocomm research branch of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Source: High Tech Shelf Help: Singapore’s Library Robot

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Published in: on August 12, 2016 at 10:04 AM  Comments (1)  

The Reformed Witness Hour at 55 Years – 1941-1996

Yes, it is true, as we have noted several times already this year, that 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour radio program – a program under the supervision of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI and supported by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, our sister churches, and other friends.

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But today for our PRC archives post, we feature the program from the 55th anniversary, which was held at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI on April 18, 1996. This was another “live broadcast” program; in other words, part of the program was recorded live for broadcast on the RWH program (which turned out to be broadcast #2886).

You will note that one of our current radio pastors spoke that night – Rev. Carl Haak – under the theme “That All the World May Know.” You will also see that a variety of musical groups were part of the program – the Voices of Victory quartet, the Faith PRC choir, and the SE PRC choir.

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Inside the program was a special insert for this RWH “rally”, with notes on it from Rev.R. Van Overloop, who led the program. Those notes included some special recognitions for those who served on the radio committee: Stu Looyenga (treasurer) had served 18 years at that point, Dwight Monsma (president and announcer) for 15 years, and Bill  Swart (recording, dubbing, printing/mailing) for over 30 years.

As we celebrate our 75th this year, we may continue to be thankful for these men and the many other men and women who have served on the RWHC over the years.

And, while we are on the subject, we hope you will join us THIS SATURDAY for our very special 75th anniversary program and mission awareness morning, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. If you need the details, visit this page on the PRC website.

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 4:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

7 Different Ways to Read a Book

Summer readingTim Challies recently reposted something he wrote back in the summer of 2014. It is worth mentioning here again too, since we can so easily reduce our reading too to a single level – whether too shallow or too deep. He reminds us that it is good to read at multiple levels, and that we become better readers and benefit more when we read in different ways.

This is how he opens his post; following that I give you two of the ways in which he says we ought to read. I hope you find this reminder helpful and encouraging as you press on in your own reading.

Reading is kind of like repairing a bicycle. Kind of. For too long now my bike has been semi-operational. It has one brake that just doesn’t want to behave and all my attempts to fix it have failed. Why? Well it turns out that I haven’t been using the right tool. To get the bike working I need to use the right tool. And when it comes to reading, well, you’ve got to use the right tool—you’ve got to know what kind of reading to do. Here are seven different kinds of reading.

And here are two of the seven ways in which we ought to read (I have chosen these because I judge them most important to the Christian. But, again, remember, there are at least five other ways to read.):

Studying. Studying is reading at its best, I think, but reading that can and should be done with only the choicest books. Life is too short and there are simply too many books to invest a great deal of time in every one of them. And this is where so many readers go wrong—they spend too much time and invest too much effort in books that simply don’t deserve it. When you study a book, you labor over it, you read it with highlighter in hand, you flip back and forth, you try to learn absolutely everything the book offers. Only the smallest percentage of books are worthy of this level of investment, so choose carefully which books you study. (Suggestions: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen or The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul)

Devotional. Devotional reading is reading deep truths meant to make a deep impact on your faith. This is slow and meditative reading that requires an open Bible and plenty of prayer. The Christian faith has many wonderful devotional works that are drawn from the Bible and will, in turn, draw you to the Bible. Read these ones day-by-day and allow them to lead you closer to God as he reveals himself through his Word. (Consider: The Reformed Expository Commentary series or Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon)

Source: 7 Different Ways to Read a Book

Published in: on August 10, 2016 at 10:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self: Listen to Others

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

You want God to speak, but are you willing to hear him speak to you through others? Make no mistake about it – you need to hear from others for your own progress in the faith. The author of Hebrews says that through mutual exhortation believers are protected from the hardening influences of sin.

Make no mistake about it – you need to listen to others, because otherwise, sin begins to petrify your heart. This means you become less sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and increasingly insensitive to the ugliness of your own corruption. A petrified heart is an ugly irony because it is like a returning to the heart of stone God once removed and replaced with a heart of flesh.

To work against this hardening, God calls you to be in and to listen to the Christian community. Proverbs tells us there are answers to be found in the counsel of friends (Prov.24:6). What this implies is that you need the local church, and you need to see the body of Christ as the people God brings into your life to learn from.

So the local church must be more than a weekly event. It needs to be your covenant community and extended family who have the right and privilege to exhort you – to speak into your life when you need it most. From words of encouragement to gentle but needed rebuke, the words of wisdom and insight are all around you. Are you listening?

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.23 “Listen to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.83-84.

The Christian and Suffering – R.C. Sproul

TT-Aug-2016Last night in our home church (Faith PRC) our Seminary intern, Justin Smidstra, brought a comforting message to us from James 1:2-4 about our calling to rejoice in the midst of all the trials God gives us in this life.

That tied in nicely to the article I read by Dr. R.C. Sproul Sunday morning. Writing in his usual column “Right Now Counts Forever,” Sproul explained the difference between and the connection between “bearing and enduring” as found in I 1 Cor.13:7.

For our profit today as we start a new work week and begin to face the manifold trials God places on our path, I quote a section from that article. May it give us proper perspective and enable us by God’s abounding grace to “count it all joy” when we fall into these trials.

Pain and suffering tend to eat away not only at our love but also at our faith, because we begin to wonder if God is loving and if He is even real. We ask how in the world He can let this relentless pain grip our lives. That’s why it’s so important for us to keep our attention on the Word of God. We are told not to be surprised when suffering comes our way. The New Testament doesn’t say that suffering might occur—it says it’s a certainty. Remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11 when he talks about what he bore for the sake of the gospel: beatings, stonings, being left for dead, shipwrecks, days and nights at sea, fighting with wild beasts, and constantly being the target of human hostility. Why was he willing to bear those things? Because he understood the divine purpose for suffering and the divine promise not only of relief from suffering, but of the redemption of the suffering itself. In this interim between Christ’s resurrection and return, Christians are called to participate in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). By bearing and enduring pain, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and mirror and reflect Him to onlookers. Pain and suffering are opportunities to show the love that God has shed abroad in our hearts.

Source: Bearing and Enduring by R.C. Sproul

Don’t Be Weary in Doing God’s Beauty Work! – Rev. C. Haak

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Our thoughts for reflection on this first Lord’s Day in August come from a message Rev.C. Haak delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour program last month (which had also been broadcast previously).

The message is titled “Not Weary in Well-Doing” (for the audio version go here) and is based on the Word of God in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well-doing:  for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Below is a portion of his exposition of that text. May we find it a necessary rebuke for our sluggishness and a powerful encouragement to our weary souls.

  Now, when the apostle says, “Don’t be weary in well-doing,” he is not referring just to a few people, but he is referring to all the people of God.  He is not referring just to giving things to the poor, but he is referring to our whole life as we are to live that life out of Jesus Christ.  Does he refer to the work of elder or deacon in your church?  Yes.  But mothers in the home and fathers, too, as they bring up their children, as they go to work to support their family.  Our church life is included.  Our marriages are included.  And all the deeds of thoughtfulness and kindness that we are to do in His name.  Witnessing to the gospel and pursuing the evangelism call of the church.  All of these things are well-doing.

        Literally, we could translate this “beauty work.”  Do not be weary in beauty work.  That is a very powerful word of God because there we see that apart from God every doing, every act, and every deed is darkness.  Apart from the beauty of God’s grace working first in our hearts, every work that is performed on the earth, the Bible says, is ugly, smelly, soiled in pride.  But there is beauty.  And that beauty comes from God alone.  It is the beauty of His grace when He works through His people in Jesus Christ.  It is that which does not then come out of self, that which is not rooted in self, but that which is of grace in us.  That is beauty work.  And even though now those works, too, are shot through with our own sin, yet God smiles because He sees in that work His wonderful grace.  Now do not be weary in beauty work.

        Further, we learn that this well-doing is synonymous with sowing to the Spirit.  Look at verses 7 and 8 and see that the Word of God has set down a principle for everyone.  There we read, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  There are only two possibilities.  One is either sowing, in his life, to his destruction, or he is sowing, in his life, to life eternal.

…Are you sowing greed in your life as a father?  Then the Word of God says, “Don’t expect contentment but expect a constricted heart, and anxious nights, and narrow eyes.”  Are you sowing gossip in your church?  Do you talk about others?  Then do not expect peace and love in your church or in your marriage or family.  But you shall harvest division and tension.  Are you, as a young man, sowing lust through pornography in your life?  Then do not expect that you are ever going to be satisfied if God gives you a wife.  What you sow you shall also reap.

        So, well-doing, then, is to be understood as that work of the Spirit of Christ whereby we sow looking for the life that is to come, that we might have an abundant harvest then.

        But you understand that that well-doing is very hard, it is very difficult, it is continuous, it is never-ending.  And this is really, I believe, the point of the apostle.  You do not see the fruit of this kind of work quickly.  Because that is the case, we become discouraged and our souls begin to sag.  You say to me, “Are you telling me that my work as a mother is beauty-work?  Are you trying to mock me?  Have you ever seen my house on a Monday morning?  It’s upside-down.  Beauty-work with my child?  I yell at my child.  How can that be beauty-work?”  “Beauty-work in our marriage” you say to me?  “Well, that’s hard work!”  And maybe you say, “It’s never going to change.  Our marriage is not going to change.  He’s not going to change.  We’re just going to have to resign ourselves to have to live with it.  We give up.”

        Maybe you say that in the church.  You say, “I’ve tried to be active in the communion of the saints.  I’ve tried to have people over to my house.  There is no reciprocation.  Beauty-work?  I’ve been hurt in the church!”  Maybe as an elder you say to me, “Pastor, you’re calling our work beauty-work, but in the church it seems that the problems are greater than anywhere else!”  And maybe personally you say, “I’m weary.  I can’t seem to get out of the doldrums.  The spiritual resilience has departed from my life because of obstacles, because of the sins of others, because of my own sins.  I’m tempted to say, ‘Well, if that’s the way they’re going to be, see if I care!’”

        So often we find ourselves then settling down into the routine.  The earlier days of fresh spiritual vigor are a distant dream.  We become discouraged and we become tempted to withdraw from doing good—in church, in marriage, in family, in our personal life.  We begin to multiply obstacles and magnify obstacles and say, “We can’t do that!”  We are ready to quit.  And we would, if we could find a good excuse for doing so.

PRC Archives – 1945 PR YP’s Convention

This past week Gary Bylsma of Faith PRC dropped off some more items for the PRC archives, and among these were two PRC Young Peoples’ Convention booklets – from 1944 and 1945.

These are significant souvenir booklets not only because they are from the fourth and fifth conventions, but also because these were WW II years and many of our PR young men were away in Europe and the Pacific for that world conflict. And as some of you know, we lost some of young men during that time, and these booklets include memoriam pages to these young men.

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Today I feature some of the pages from this fifth convention booklet, hosted by South Holland PRC in 1945. As you will see, our young men at war were very much on the minds of the host society and the young people. It was a different era, important in its own way for our churches and young people.

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A fun and interesting part of the convention booklets from the early years is the autograph section in the back. Here was where fellow conventioneers could  sign their names for their friends – old and new. This particular booklet has the pages full of such “autographs.”

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I think you will enjoy seeing these and the people who go with them. Perhaps your parent or grandparent is named here.🙂

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Review Books – Two New Crossway Titles

Recently I received two requested review books from Crossway publishers, and today I make them available to our readers who may be interested in writing a brief review for the Standard Bearer.

"Free Grace" Theology

The first is “Free Grace” ‘Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, written by Wayne Grudem (paper, 159 pp.). This book is a fresh look at an old error that often creeps into the church, that salvation by grace means salvation without a change of life (genuine repentance) and without demands on a person’s heart, mind, and walk (godly obedience).

In the more recent past, this error was known as the “lordship controversy,” but now it has a “new” name – “free grace theology.” It may be pointed out that this error also shows itself wherever antinomianism is promoted. As Grudem points out in his introduction, he wrote this to point out properly the nature of the gospel, true Christian assurance, and the nature of saving faith.

The publisher offers this description:

Must the gospel message include a call for people to repent of their sins? “No,” say Free Grace advocates. Is evidence of a changed life an important indication of whether a person is truly born again? “No, again,” these advocates say.

But in this book, Wayne Grudem shows how the Bible answers “Yes” to both of these questions, arguing that the Free Grace movement contradicts both historic Protestant teaching and the New Testament itself.

This important book explains the true nature of the Christian gospel and answers the question asked by so many people: “How can I know that I’m saved?”

If this book is of interest to you and you are willing to write a review on it, please contact me here or by email.

Eight Women of Faith

The second book is Eight Women of Faith, penned by Michael A. G. Haykin (paper, 160 pp.), and takes a look at eight significant women who played an important role in church history.

Crossway gives this summary:

With the majority of books about church history centering on the lives and accomplishments of men, it is easy for contemporary Christians to forget the vital role that women have played in the history of Christianity. Drawing from journal entries, personal letters, and other historical documents, historian Michael Haykin reminds Christians of women from previous generations who have helped shape the church. This book affords readers deep insights into how women such as Jane Austen, Sarah Edwards, and Anne Steele responded to challenges in society, came to embrace key doctrines, and made crucial contributions to the life of the church.

For obvious reasons, it would be nice to have a woman do the review on this book. Any interested ladies?

As always, the books are your to keep.

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Lit Classics Are Not Totally Different from Other Literature – L.Ryken

litclassicsAs we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we have moved into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we listed last week. Today, let’s see what Ryken as to say under Bad Practice #3: Assume that the classics are totally different from other literature:

…We tend to place the classics in such an elite category that we think of them as unique – totally unlike the literature to which we gravitate as an enjoyable leisure pursuit.

…We need to resist this inclination, and it is easy to do. The great storytellers who have given us the classic stories do not bypass what the popular imagination demands. By popular imagination I mean the literary preferences that people universally display…. The whole cross section of the population likes the same things in a story, such as plot conflict, striking events, memorable characters, suspense, violence, danger, a touch of fantasy or the supernatural, vivid settings, and suchlike. Storytellers such as Shakespeare and Hawthorne give us all of these.

The thing that distinguishes the classics is not that they ignore universal or popular literary taste. What sets them apart is that the writers give us more than the basic template. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth we find all the stock ingredients of a murder story, but we also get a profound exploration of sin and guilt. Homer’s Odyssey gives us an abundance of heart-stopping suspense and danger, but at the end of the story we realize that these stock plot ingredients have shown us essential qualities of the human journey that every person undertakes in life (pp.46-47)

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Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 6:57 AM  Leave a Comment  

Family Worship – Final Encouragement

family-worship-whitney-2016In the last few months we have been taking a look at a new publication of Crossway that I requested for review. The book is Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.), and we have been drawing some good encouragement from it for being faithful in family devotions or worship.

In the last chapter (5) – “Isn’t This What You Really Want to Do?” – Whitney gives us final motivation for carrying out this calling, including a series of questions, the last of which is the title to the chapter.

But he also has a series of closing admonitions, starting with husbands/fathers and families, before addressing single persons too. For today, I quote from his words to fathers and family members.

First, to fathers Whitney says,

Husbands, fathers – if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today or tonight. Almost certainly your wife will be thrilled more than you can imagine to hear you say that. Your children may or may not be as enthusiastic, but that does not really matter. The less interest they show, the more your family needs family worship.

The Lord will help you. He does not call his Spirit-begotten sons to this task without giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it. The same Father who gave you the gospel and drew you to Christ will strengthen you by his Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood (p.65).

Let that encourage us to begin anew or press on, men.

And then this there is this encouragement for the family:

Family members – have the willing spirit of Jacob’s household. After he called them to follow his leadership in the family worship of God, Genesis 35:4 tells us, ‘So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.’ Respond just as willingly to the call to family worship in your home. Encourage your husband or dad in his desire to bring the blessings of God upon you. Do not be a stumbling block in his efforts to obey God (p.65).

Shall we all strive in our covenant families to be more diligent and devoted to this holy activity? Is anything – other than our worship on the Lord’s day – more important? Isn’t this what you too really want to do?!

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